MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The four teams in Minneapolis for the NCAA women’s Final Four are South Carolina, Louisville, Stanford and Connecticut.
One of them will seem to have a homecourt advantage. That’s the impact of Paige Bueckers, who is one of the star players for the UConn Huskies.READ MORE: Minnesota State Beats Rival Minnesota 5-1 To Reach Frozen Four Final
Bueckers made a name for herself growing up here and playing high school basketball for Hopkins. UConn will have lots of local fans cheering for them because of Bueckers.
Several of Bueckers’ former Hopkins teammates are ready for the college spotlight. This year, the Hopkins Royals girls basketball team won the state championship and they have four players already committed to D1 teams. Some of those commits aren’t even seniors.
Amaya Battle is a senior that’s committed to the University of Minnesota to play for the Gophers. After finishing her final season at Hopkins, she holds the school’s second highest record for most assists, right behind her former teammate Bueckers.
Nunu Agaria is only a junior, but she’s already committed to Stanford’s D1 program. Her future team is playing against her former teammate Bueckers in the Final Four on Friday.
Liv McGill is only a sophomore and is talking to D1 teams already, and plans to sign early as well.
All of them talked about the importance of women being trailblazers in sports, and how they hope the success of the Hopkins program and the Final Four coming to Minneapolis garners more attention for women’s basketball.
“For younger generations who want to be in our position, if we take it seriously and they see us work hard, they’ll follow our steps and hopefully be in that same position as well,” Battle said.
“Minnesota is mainly known as a hockey state and I think just having Hopkins girls basketball be that top-tier program and representing Minnesota is really great,” Agaria said.READ MORE: Final Four Fans Revel In Tourney Town Fun, Eager To Watch Paige Bueckers
“People need to support women’s basketball as much as they do men’s basketball because we work as hard or even harder than them to be good at this sport,” McGill said.
Battle said she grew up idolizing Lindsay Whalen on the Minnesota Lynx. Now she will get to learn directly from her idol, as Whalen will be her new head coach at the U next year.
Rising stars from Minnehaha Academy also hope to be part of the NCAA Tournament in the future. Ava Cupito and Addi Mack are standout players as the two youngest team members.
Cupito hit a buzzer beater to secure third place in the state tournament this year. She’s only in seventh grade and is the youngest player on the team. She said colleges are already talking to her.
As a freshman, Mack already scored 1,000 career points. She broke the school’s record for highest points scored in a single season for the girls basketball program with 736 this year.
Both players talked about the progress they’re seeing with people paying attention to women’s sports, and they hope to be part of that change.
“I’m used to hearing all about the boys and this year it’s been a really big change over to the girls, and I just think it’s a long road for us and we can be successful for a while,” Cupito said.
“Just to see people compete at the highest level and the biggest stage is just really special, and me, I want to do that, so it’s just me looking up to them and seeing what opportunities hold for the future,” Mack said.
Minnehaha Academy has an excellent basketball program, with two of their boys players going D1 in the last two years. One of them is Jalen Suggs who is already in the NBA. The other is Chet Holmgren, who will likely be drafted in the first round for the NBA this year.MORE NEWS: UConn-South Carolina Title Match Packs Plenty Of Star Power
Cupito and Mack hope to go pro someday as well.