By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota native Paige Bueckers makes her first Final Four appearance in the NCAA tournament Friday night. Earlier in the week, she made history as the first freshman to be named the Associated Press Player of the Year.

WCCO spoke to those here at home who have been along for her successful ride.

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Amaya Battle replaced the hole Bueckers left behind at Hopkins High School. Battle is a junior point guard, just like Bueckers. As her friend and former teammate, Battle emulates Bueckers play-making leadership.

“Just how she doesn’t give up and always plays hard. That’s something I want to take away,” Battle said. “I definitely learned a lot of from her just from watching her.”

Brian Cosgriff is not surprised to see Bueckers’ humility and emotion accepting the honor. He’s been her coach throughout her time as a Hopkins High School Royal.

“Couldn’t happen to a better player and better person,” he said. “To sit there and watch her receive this award, and I think, ‘How lucky was I to coach this young lady for so long?'”

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Another UConn great – Maya Moore – also won the AP Player of the Year award, but she was a sophomore at the time. Many fans of Bueckers hope she follows in Moore’s footsteps and ends up at Target Center playing for the Lynx.

Coach Cosgriff credits Bueckers for doing much more than winning.

“People are talking about women’s basketball. They’re talking about the sport. They’re watching these games going, ‘This is really fun to watch.’ And Paige has been a big piece of that.”

Bueckers and the Huskies take on the Arizona Wildcats in the final four Friday at 8:30 p.m.

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Marielle Mohs