MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Paige Bueckers made her triumphant return to Minnesota Sunday, with a nearly sold out crowd at Williams Arena.
Bueckers’ University of Connecticut Huskies took on the Gophers in a special senior homecoming game. The former Hopkins High School basketball star attracted a huge crowd, many of whom were wearing UConn gear and sporting her number five jersey.
"It's just really cool to see the way she plays and how far basketball has taken her," said Eva Englebret, who came all the way from River Falls, Wisconsin to watch Bueckers play. "I hope to play like her."
Bueckers said the experience of playing at home was ‘surreal’.
"I grew up coming to games here. I grew up watching a lot of players play here. And for me to be the one taking the court in a game I used to watch was kind of crazy, kind of surreal," she said.
Many youth basketball programs were seen in attendance at the game, as several young girls told Fox 9 they aspire to be the next ‘big thing’ to come out of Minnesota.
"She’s just a phenomenal player all around - her shooting, her finishing - it's something I want to achieve to be like her one day and play division one basketball as well," said Kenzie Olson of Chaska.
Bueckers estimated she had around 100 family and friends in the stands Sunday. Her dad, Bob Bueckers, said it was an emotional experience watching Paige play in Minneapolis.
"It's pretty special," said Bob. "We would come here way before there were any recruiting trips or anything… Now getting to come here with her UConn family, meeting our family in her hometown is pretty special."