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Paige Bueckers is first freshman to win AP Player of the Year Award

Not even the greatest stars in WNBA history won the award as a freshman.

For the first time ever, a freshman has won The Associated Press women’s basketball player of the year award – and she is Minnesota native Paige Bueckers.

The freshman guard from the No. 1 Connecticut Huskies was surprised with the award – given to the top player in college basketball – from the site of the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas, Wednesday morning. 

Bueckers received 21 of 30 votes to win the award in convincing fashion. Louisville's Dana Evans finished second with four votes, according to The AP. 

Bueckers was an overwhelming choice, receiving more than two-thirds of the votes from 30-member national media panel that chooses the weekly AP Top 25.

The AP began honoring the player of the year in 1995. Juniors and seniors had won the honor all but two times since, with UConn legends Maya Moore and Breanna Steward both winning as sophomores. 

Wherever Bueckers goes, awards follow. She was the No. 1 recruit in the country after graduating from Hopkins High School in 2020, where she was a McDonald's All-America, the Gatorade Player of the Year, the Naismith Player of the Year and Minnesota's Miss Basketball. 

She's also the first player to win both the Big East Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year awards. 

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But wait, there's more: Bueckers is also an AP All-American as a freshman. 

Bueckers would likely be a star player in the WNBA right now, but she's not eligible for the WNBA Draft until completes four years of eligibility or she graduates with her undergraduate degree. That means that whoever has the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft will be very happy. 

Bueckers and No. 1 UConn face No. 3-seed Arizona in the Final Four at 8:30 p.m. CT Friday. The other Final Four matchup is between No. 1 seeds South Carolina and Stanford. 

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