SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Paige Bueckers is in a class all by herself.
UConn's star guard became the first freshman ever to win The Associated Press women's basketball player of the year award Wednesday.
Bueckers helped lead the Huskies to their 13th consecutive Final Four with 28 points in the regional final win over Baylor on Monday night, just the latest star turn for the phenomenal 19-year-old Minnesota native.
"It's amazing, surreal for people to think of me that highly and to be in that position as a freshman," Bueckers said. "To get this award, I'm extremely humbled and grateful."
Bueckers was informed she won the award by coach Geno Auriemma during a team video session on Monday. She broke down as she accepted it in front of her teammates.
"A lot has happened over the past year things that could bring people down," Bueckers said. "To get a reward and find something positive in these times, you cherish them. I was there with my teammates and coaching staff and to get that award with them around me makes you be so grateful for the position I'm in."
Bueckers was an overwhelming choice, receiving 21 votes from the 30-member national media panel that chooses the weekly AP Top 25. Dana Evans of Louisville was second with four votes; Rhyne Howard of Kentucky received two votes; and Michigan's Naz Hillmon, Texas's Charli Collier and Iowa freshman Caitlin Clark all received a vote.
Former UConn greats Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart both won the award as sophomores. All other winners have been juniors or seniors since the AP started honoring players in 1995.
And now comes Bueckers.
"That's crazy to think about, all the great college players who ever played," Bueckers said. "The great freshmen who had done great things in their first year in college basketball, It really is surreal that it's never been done before."
It's the 12th time a UConn player has been honored.
Bueckers, who is from Edina, Minnesota, is averaging 20.1 points, 5.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds this season. She became the first UConn player ever to score 30 or more points in three consecutive games and also set the school record for points in her NCAA debut when she had 24 in the opener against High Point.
"Name one player that has taken a team this young to where we are today," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Who's done more than her? And if you can give me a better argument, then I would say I'll vote for them, too. But I don't think you can."
Maryland coach Brenda Frese was honored as The Associated Press women's basketball coach of the year Wednesday for the second time in her career.
Frese received eight votes from the 30-member national media panel that votes on the weekly AP Top 25. Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer and North Carolina State coach Wes Moore each received seven votes.
"It's special. Obviously its going to be one I never forget," said Frese, who also was AP coach of the year 19 years ago when she was at Minnesota. "What makes it so special is having this journey through a pandemic with the most selfless group of people you could go through a pandemic with. No one had Maryland doing anything this season after the graduation and losses of all five starters last year."
Maryland lost five starters from last year's Big Ten championship team, but didn't miss a beat, winning the conference for the sixth time in seven years and going 26-3. The Terrapins lost in the Sweet 16 to Texas.
Geno Auriemma, Muffet McGraw and Kim Mulkey are the only other coaches to win the award multiple times.
"I'm humbled and honored, that's some pretty elite company," Frese said.
She won her 500th game at Maryland earlier this season, making her the winningest coach in program history, and has 569 total victories at Maryland, Minnesota and Ball State.
She was surprised by her father, Bill, who is 89 and has battled prostate cancer, with the news she had won the award.
"It was absolutely perfect. No better way to here that news come from my dad," she said. "To have my entire family on the Zoom. I was speechless, blown away, completely surprised."
Frese said that the season provided her with an escape from what her family was going through.
"It helped you didn't have as much alone time to think about a lot of things," she said.
When Maryland won the Big Ten Tournament, Frese's father and mother, Donna, were in the stands in Indianapolis. It was the first time Bill has been able to travel because of the pandemic. She gave him the net they cut down.
"Usually he gets a piece of it, but he deserved the whole thing," she said. "It's a memory I'll cherish for a lifetime."