MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When her coach asked her to come in to school early for a photoshoot, Paige Bueckers wasn’t expecting to be handed a trophy.

The Hopkins High School senior was surprised by Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns with the 2019-2020 Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year award.

The award recognizes not only athletic achievement but academic excellence and exemplary character. Bueckers won the Gatorade State Girls Basketball award in 2018 and 2019, but was chosen out of nearly a million high school girls as the national winner.

“Her ability to just control the floor – she makes her teammates so much better – is why she’s going to be truly special not only in college basketball but when she gets to the next level,” said Towns, who won the award himself in 2014.

“Obviously I put team awards first and state championship first but I wanted to be a National Gatorade Player of the Year and for me to get it checked off the list – it leaves me speechless,” Bueckers said. “This one means a lot because it’s not just basketball, it’s about being a great person.”

Hopkins High School is days away from the state quarterfinals, after beating rival Wayzata in the section championship game last Thursday.

“It is state championship week so I’m going to try to get back, locked in, and stay focused so we can get that state championship,” Bueckers said.

A back-to-back state championship would be the sweet end to her senior season, she added. Bueckers, who has dreams of playing in the WNBA, is committed to play college basketball at the University of Connecticut.

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