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Paige Bueckers named Gatorade girls' high school basketball player of year

Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns surprised Paige Bueckers with the 2019-2020 Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year award Monday at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minn. Photo courtesy of Gatorade
Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns surprised Paige Bueckers with the 2019-2020 Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year award Monday at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minn. Photo courtesy of Gatorade

March 9 (UPI) -- Paige Bueckers was named the 2020 Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year on Monday after dominating opponents while starring at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minn.

Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns surprised Bueckers with the award at Hopkins High School. Bueckers -- a University of Connecticut commitment -- is averaging 21.8 points, 9.3 assists, 5.3 steals and 5.1 rebounds this season. Hopkins has a state quarterfinals matchup Wednesday in Minneapolis.

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"It was a very hectic morning," Bueckers said. "I woke up thinking it was a normal video shoot. All the sudden my teammates were like 'Oh, my God.' And then Karl-Anthony Towns was there.

"I saw him holding the Gatorade National Player of the Year award and it kind of made sense, but I'm still mind-blown about it."

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Bueckers is the top high school basketball recruit in the class of 2020. She also was a starter for the gold-medal winning USA Basketball U-19 women's World Cup team. She maintains a 3.80 grade-point average and started her own series of youth basketball clinics called Buckets with Bueckers, a program offering free admission for players in Minnesota and Montana.

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"I was just looking at [the award] and seeing all the players who have won it before -- LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Maya Moore and Candace Parker," Bueckers said. "It's crazy to see my name on there and to think I'm a part of this award too and etched in history as being Player of the Year. It's something I dreamed about and for it to become reality is just crazy."

Bueckers stands at 5-foot-11. She is known for her dribbling ability, elusiveness and smooth shooting stroke. She led Hopkins (28-0) to a state championship in 2018-2019. She models her game after Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird.

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"Life has come full circle. Alonzo Mourning surprised me in art class when I won National Player of the Year," Towns said. "Now I'm the person surprising Paige Bueckers."

Bueckers hopes to pursue a career in the WNBA after college. She planned to meet with Kobe Bryant this summer before he died in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash. Bryant was close to the Connecticut program and often worked out with Huskies players.

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"Women's basketball is a tight community and we are trying to shine a light on the women's game," Buekers said. "With Kobe's passing, we have come together and stayed strong. We are getting more attention than before and we are trying to use that in a positive way."

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Past winners of the Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year award have combined for nine WNBA MVP awards and 49 All-Star appearances.

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