Some college basketball fans have been wondering whether Paige Bueckers, the star UConn guard who will miss the season with a knee injury, would enter the W.N.B.A. draft after this season as an alternative of returning for her senior yr with the Huskies.
Bueckers answered unequivocally on Thursday.
“I’m not leaving. That shouldn’t be within the query,” Bueckers told reporters. “People asked me, ‘What are you enthusiastic about your fifth yr, Covid yr, redshirting this yr?’ I’m not pondering too far ahead about that in any respect, but I will probably be playing college basketball again.”
Bueckers, a 20-year-old junior from Minnesota who was the national player of the yr as a freshman, can stay through the 2024-25 season after the N.C.A.A. gave athletes a bonus yr of eligibility due to pandemic.
Considering her talents, Bueckers’s plan to return for not less than yet another yr is sweet news for UConn fans, women’s college basketball and Bueckers’ checking account.
She stands to earn more money from name, image and likeness opportunities in college than she would earn within the W.N.B.A.
“I mean, she’s going to make well over one million dollars. It’s not even an issue,” Jason Belzer, the chief executive of Student Athlete NIL, an agency that works with brands doing campaigns for student athletes, said Friday in a phone interview. “She probably has more value as a student athlete from a marketing and endorsement perspective than she’s going to as a professional, unless she becomes an absolute All-Star, Sue Bird-like person.”
Bird, who also starred at UConn, is taken into account considered one of the best players within the history of the ladies’s game and can retire at the top of this W.N.B.A. season.
The No. 1 pick on this yr’s N.B.A. draft, Duke’s Paolo Banchero, will earn greater than $9 million, while the No. 2 pick, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, will earn greater than $8 million.
The vast disparity in salaries between the N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. is a significant reason many ladies’s players, like Brittney Griner and roughly 70 other W.N.B.A. athletes, have played in Russia and other countries throughout the off-season. Griner, who last month was sentenced to nine years in prison for possessing lower than a gram of hashish oil, reportedly earned greater than $1 million annually, greater than 4 times her W.N.B.A. salary, while playing for UMMC Yekaterinburg in Russia.
Bueckers has an array of N.I.L. deals that can generate rather more than the bottom salary even for the No. 1 pick within the W.N.B.A. Last November she became the first-ever college athlete to be signed by Gatorade throughout the N.I.L. era. She also has deals with StockX, a worldwide e-commerce platform for sneakers, toys, electronics and apparel, and Chegg, an education platform.
“Paige Bueckers is all the time going to have the chance to profit off of her fame and her marketability,” said Peter Schoenthal, the chief executive of Athliance, an N.I.L. software management company that helps schools, athletes, collectives, agents and oldsters manage N.I.L. deals.
Schoenthal said Bueckers would have marketing opportunities if she jumped to the W.N.B.A. But he added: “I believe there may be an argument to be made that she’s more marketable while at UConn because UConn women’s basketball might be more popular than most W.N.B.A. teams. So I believe it’s fair to say that considered one of reasons she’s coming back is name, image and likeness.”
Belzer also said he believes Bueckers stands to earn extra money at UConn than she would within the W.N.B.A.
“She owns, or can own, women’s basketball from a collegiate standpoint and he or she’s hitting a unique demographic, an audience, straight away than she is when she goes into the W.N.B.A,” he said.
The W.N.B.A. also offers marketing deals to a few of its players. The league pays individual players as much as $250,000 per yr, and teams pays as much as a complete of $100,000 to their players for marketing deals. The league also has an in-season tournament with a money bonus, and it offers bonuses for honors like being named the rookie of the yr.
After all, money isn’t the one thing that motivates Bueckers, who on Thursday focused her comments on how much she longs to play basketball. She missed significant time as a sophomore with a tibial plateau fracture and meniscus tear, which required surgery. Then got here the a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee last month.
She said she’s taking her recovery daily and can proceed to be evaluated by the UConn medical staff.
And she will be able to’t wait to get back on the court at UConn.
“I actually just need to be 110 percent healthy before I ever play basketball again,” she said, “simply because I never need to take a break like this again, ever, in my profession.”