STORRS -- It became clear early on that fifth-year senior Heather Buck was not going to play extensive minutes at UConn. She easily could have moved on to another program where she could have found a better situation for herself as others have done.
Elena Delle Donne spent the first two days of June on campus in 2008 before returning home and eventually transferring to Delaware . Samarie Walker transferred to Kentucky January 2011. Lauren Engeln (Boston College) and Michala Johnson (Wisconsin) transferred after last season.
Buck chose to stay. It was initially her decision to join the Huskies. She intended to honor that decision. And this afternoon she will be honored on Senior Day as the third-ranked Huskies host Seton Hall in the final regular season game at Gampel Pavilion (4 p.m.; SNY).
"I'm not the type of person that looks back and regrets,'' Buck said. "There's no point. You make your decision and then you enjoy it. It's not even making the best of it. That's what you decided so enjoy it. Live it up and enjoy every minute of it. That's what I've tried to do.''
Buck, who will earn a bachelor's degree in nursing in May, has amassed 206 points (1.8) and 230 rebounds (2.0) in 844 minutes (7.4) over 114 games. She started the 2010-11 season opener against Holy Cross in place of Stefanie Dolson. UConn coach Geno Auriemma will grant her an honorary start today.
"It's easy to just say, `Hey, look, if I'm not starting and playing 30 minutes or if I'm not coming off the bench and getting a lot of playing time then what's the point,'" Auriemma said. "But to Heather's credit there was never anything other than, `This is what I want to do. This is where I want to be.' Physically, it was difficult for her. But mentally she never walked away from it.''
The games for which Buck will be remembered are a 65-64 win over Baylor at the XL Center Nov. 16, 2010 and a 66-61 loss at Baylor Dec. 18, 2011. In each game she successfully battled Lady Bears' 6-foot-8 All-American center Brittney Griner.
Walker had fouled out with 9:44 left in the meeting in Hartford. Dolson then fouled out with 7:24 left and Auriemma turned Buck with UConn trailing 54-48. Buck (one rebound) held Griner to two points and one rebound as the Huskies went on to win.
Buck had four rebounds, one block and one steal and stood strong in defending Griner last season in Waco, Texas. Griner totaled two points, three rebounds and had one turnover in the 13 minutes, 34 seconds that Buck was in the lineup for the Huskies. Buck helped hold Griner scoreless for a stretch of 11:36 during the first half.
"There are a lot of things that will stand out, but that's probably one of my proudest individual moments is playing against her,'' Buck said. ``I think of it like, I stepped up to the challenge and I actually accomplished something. That's how I think of it.''
Buck has also successfully met the challenge of balancing being a member of the Huskies (24-2 overall, 11-1 Big East) and completing her final two classes toward a nursing degree. She plans to take her licensing exam this summer with the intention of becoming a Registered Nurse.
"It was a decision I made, and I was determined to see it through,'' Buck said. "A lot of people have advocated for me and helped me along the way in the nursing school and in the basketball office to help schedule things and be creative and find ways to make it work.''
Buck will not find her name in the UConn record book or in the Huskies of Honor on the wall at Gampel Pavilion. Yet, that will not diminish the experience that she has had during her five-year career.
Buck will soon move on to the next stage of her life with no regrets.
"The overall experience here absolutely outweighs anything I think I could have had somewhere else,'' Buck said. "This is the way it went. And I'm very happy with my decision. We won two national championships so far while I've been here and played on arguably the best team or couple teams in the history of women's basketball. Who else can say that? That's really cool.''
email@example.com; http://twitter.com/elliottctpost; http://blog.ctnews.com/elliott/