COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Paige Bueckers plays basketball with a poise that belies her age.
The 5-foot-10 guard from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, has already been part of two state championship games and has been named to the all-state tournament team twice. She is currently involved in USA Basketball's U-16 national team trials at the United States Olympic Training Center here. The final day of her freshman year at Hopkins High is, though she hopes she'll still be here for the U-16 training camp before the 12-player squad heads to Buenos Aries, Argentina, for the FIBA Americas Championships .
She's also drawn attention nationwide and is the owner of some 15 scholarship offers. Name the top programs in the country and chances are they have seen her play. And while she's dealt with that kind of thing for a couple of years, that may be the one thing that can rattle her.
"Geno was at one of our games and I was just freaking out inside," Bueckers said with a smile, talking about University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma. "But I knew that I had to keep calm inside because there was a game to play. I think I'm good at tuning all that stuff out. I go out there with my teammates and try to win the game."
at Hopkins -- she played on the varsity team as an eighth grader -- the Royals are 58-4.
And while the scholarship offers are exciting, she stays at an even keel and takes it all in stride.
"It really means nothing now if I don't get better in the future," Bueckers said. "It shows how much attention you're getting and that doesn't really matter. But if I stay healthy and I keep improving and keep working, I can play at the D-1 level. But if I'm not prepared, I won't play. That's why it doesn't matter right now."
Bueckers averaged 8.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in mostly a reserve role as an eighth grader as Hopkins finished 28-3 and advanced to the Class 4A state tournament final.
She broke out as a freshman by averaging 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 4.2 steals as Hopkins (30-1) returned to the tournament final, though a championship remained elusive.
"In eighth grade, we had a bunch of D-1 players so my role was much smaller than it was in ninth grade," Bueckers said. "Last season I was more of a shooting guard. A lot of our plays are run through the shooting guard so my teammates got me open a lot. It was a great experience.
"I think I'm a guard, neither a point guard nor shooting guard. I love to dish the ball off to my teammates. When I'm open I attack the basket, but I can shoot threes and the mid-range. On defense I get tips and blocks. I try to play with a lot of energy and have fun."
And with a knack of being at her best at the biggest moments. She had a career high 31 points in a Class 4A quarterfinal win over Minnetonka (a rematch of the 2016 tourney final) andmatched that total in the semifinals against Eastview.
The final was a matchup of unbeatens and Elk River led Hopkins by three with time winding down in front of some 8,000 fans at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. Bueckers' bid from about 25 feet to tie went around the rim and out and a free throw by Danielle Lachmiller iced Elk River's 64-60 win.
"It was from right about there," Bueckers said, pointing to a spot on a USOTC court about six feet behind and slightly to the side of the top of the key. "I've replayed it a whole bunch of times. I practice that shot so many times. It just didn't go in that one time in the game. It looked like it was going in and it just rolled out."
The loss has given her extra motivation, something that she has brought here to the trials.
"Watching all these great players motivates me because it makes me realize that I'm not the best and I need to train to be that," Bueckers said. "I'm not satisfied with where I am. I want to win a championship and that we lost burns in my stomach."
Bueckers called being one of the 35 players invited to the trials an honor and it is her first time here. The original 133 participants had been reduced to 64night. The 12-player roster or finalists will be announced .
To help prepare, she reached out to Hopkins graduate Nia Coffey, who won a gold medal alongside former UConn stars Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck at the 2013 FIBA U-19 world championships before moving on to Northwestern University and becoming the No. 5 overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft by the San Antonio Stars.
"She said to just be yourself," Bueckers said. "They're not necessarily looking for the best scorer. Everyone here can score. They're looking for good passing, good attitudes, being a good teammate, and having a lot of energy."
Her favorite player is Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers because of his craftiness and will to win.
One of her favorite movies is "The Pistol" about Hall of Fame basketball player Pete Maravich.
"He spent countless hours shooting and there's a scene in the movie he's out in the rain shooting," Bueckers said. "He had incredible determination and dedication to the game and it showed up in his college and NBA careers."
Maravich was at LSU for three seasons (1967-70) and played his last game in the NBA with the Boston Celtics a decade later, 22 years before Bueckers was born. Nothing like going old school, is there?
No wonder she plays with a poise that belies her age.