Aug. 6—Caroline Doty's heart aches anytime she hears an athlete has suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
The pain hit home for the former UConn women's basketball team guard and current Wisconsin assistant coach Wednesday when she heard the news that UConn's Paige Bueckers would miss the 2022-23 season with a torn ACL in her left knee.
"Knowing what it's like, knowing it's the second time she's been hurt in a short amount of time, you feel that," Doty said Friday. "After missing so many games and her putting all of that work in to get back and eventually play in the national championship game, this happens. And it's an ACL. It's not something that you can just go in and get cleaned up and come back in a week. This is a 9-12 month process and it's a grind day after day.
"It hurts to see it happen to her."
Bueckers had surgery on Friday at the UConn Health Center in Farmington. The junior guard was injured playing a pick-up game Monday.
The 2021 national Player of the Year missed 19 games her sophomore season following surgery to repair an anterior tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear suffered against Notre Dame on Dec. 5. She returned on Feb. 25 and played the final 11 games. The Huskies won the Big East tournament and NCAA Bridgeport Regional titles but lost to South Carolina in the national championship game in Minneapolis.
Her next game is 15 months away.
"Having been through a rehab, though it wasn't for an ACL, will help her," Doty said. "She has to trust the process. To have to do it again is tough. But knowing the competitor Paige is she'll work at doing her best every day and she'll come back stronger than ever."
Doty knows what Bueckers — who wears the No. 5 uniform Doty wore at UConn from 2008 through 2013 — will be going through all too well.
The Doylestown, Pennsylvania native tore the ACL in her left knee three times in a 35-month span from early in her senior year at Germantown Academy to the offseason of her junior season at UConn. The first surgery ended her high school career while her second forced her to miss the final 22 games of her freshman year in Storrs.
Her third surgery in August 2010 came after she helped the Huskies to a second straight 39-0 national championship season and cost her the 2010-11 campaign. She redshirted and played two more seasons, picking up a third national championship ring as a fifth-year senior in 2013.
"The experience of what I went through is so much different in this day and age than what I went through even though it's only 12 years with social media being what it is," Doty said. "I think the biggest thing for Paige is going to be taking it day by day, one day at a time. She still has a lot of basketball to play though it's not going to come as quickly as she wants it to. Keep that picture in mind that this is just a glimpse of the future. There will be a lot of adversity to overcome that she'll need to attack and how she responds to that adversity will be crucial at this time in her career.
"But she is going to have a great support system in place at UConn. Back in 2010 I knew that I had the best doctors, the best athletic trainers, the best coaching staff, and the best teammates ready to help me. Paige will have her trainers, coaches, and teammates supporting her and challenging her and before she knows it in three months she'll be able to jog and in six months she'll be able to do on-the-court stuff. She'll reach milestones and just celebrate the day."
Doty's redshirt year allowed her to see the game from another perspective. She sat next to the coaches on Geno Auriemma's staff — Chris Dailey, Shea Ralph, and Marisa Moseley — with clipboard in hand, taking notes and studying the game like she hadn't before. She still has practice plans from that Huskies' season.
It also piqued her interest in coaching. When Moseley became the head coach at Wisconsin in March 2021, she hired Doty as an assistant.
For Bueckers, it can be an opportunity to continue her growth.
"Going through the ACL rehab was the toughest thing I've done, but it was the most rewarding as well," Doty said.
"Try to focus on the good days over the bad days. That will help her stay motivated for the long journey ahead."
For coverage of all sports in the JI's 18-town coverage area, plus updates on the UConn women's basketball team and head coach Geno Auriemma, follow Carl Adamec on Twitter: @CarlAdamec, Facebook: Carl Adamec, and Instagram: @CarlAdamec.