How UConn women's basketball newcomers can help Huskies this season and beyond

The UConn women’s basketball team had four newcomers heading into the season.

Three freshmen, and a grad transfer from down the street. But the Huskies lost one of the new players before the season began, as freshman Ice Brady suffered a season-ending injury.

That reduced a roster that was already without star point guard Paige Bueckers, who will miss the season with an ACL tear. The injuries could force UConn to rely even more on the new faces.

Here’s a breakdown of UConn’s newest players and how they could help the team:

Lou Lopez Sénéchal 

The native of France had a dominant career at Fairfield.

Over the last four years, Lopez Sénéchal led the Stags in scoring each season, totaled 1,598 career points, led Fairfield to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in over 20 years, was named the 2019 MAAC Rookie of the Year, was a three-time All-MAAC First Team, and, most recently, was named the 2022 MAAC Tournament MVP.

After graduating this May, the 6-foot-1 guard wanted to find a new home at a program that would challenge her for her final year of collegiate eligibility. Enter UConn.

Had Bueckers not suffered an ACL injury this summer, Lopez Sénéchal could still have made an impact for UConn. But without Bueckers, Lopez Sénéchal is viewed as an essential player ... especially after proving to be one of the program’s biggest bright spots this preseason.

"With Paige going down and not being able to play, if we didn’t have Lou it would be twice as bad," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It’s already really bad. It would be twice as bad if we didn’t have Lou to pick up some of that slack."

At Fairfield, Lopez Sénéchal was the go-to scoring option for former coach Joe Frager — reliable and consistent. In her short time with the Huskies, she’s already shown just that.

"Lou’s been steady like you would think because she’s played so much college basketball so she looks like she’s been with us years," Auriemma said. "And we’re gonna be relying on her a tremendous amount. … When she gets the ball, she just has a knack like she knows exactly what shot she has to take and how to get it. That’s just really fun to watch."

Lopez Sénéchal shot over 40 percent from 3-point range in each of her last two seasons at Fairfield. At UConn, she will be looked upon to not only just score but help create open looks by passing and facilitating plays.

She’ll be threat on the outside, but has the length to score in the paint. She could very likely earn a starting spot.

Ayanna Patterson

UConn’s newest dunking phenom comes from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Patterson was the No. 4-ranked recruit and No. 1-ranked wing in the Class of 2022. She won gold with Team USA at the 2021 U18 3x3 World Cup and was also a McDonald’s All-American.

She was named the 2022 Preseason Big East Freshman of the Year and is poised to become one of UConn's biggest rim protectors.

Last year at Homestead High School, Patterson averaged 25.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks a game as a senior. She was the 2022 Indiana Miss Basketball.

"Ayanna has skills that no one else on our team has athletically, basketball-wise there’s some work to do, but in terms of just pure what she can do physically, it’s different than anyone else on our team," Auriemma said at Big East Media Day. "Hopefully that translates into the basketball end of it and if it does, then we’ll have a pretty good player on our hands."

Auriemma called Patterson's athleticism "mind-boggling." But she'll need harness all that talent to contribute. 

At 6-2, Patterson has the length to compete in the post at both ends of the floor. Yet her athleticism allows her to play the wing, providing a potential mismatch on offense.

With Brady out and Olivia Nelson-Ododa graduated, UConn's front line is seemingly thin: Dorka Juhász and Aaliyah Edwards are back, Aubrey Griffin has returned from back surgery, and unproven sophomore Amari DeBerry returns.  

Patterson could emerge as rotation contributor as she prepares for a prominent role in the coming seasons.

Inês Bettencourt

UConn’s most recent newbie comes all the way from Portugal.

Bettencourt, who turned 18 in September, was committed to a junior college in Florida before UConn expressed interest in mid-August after losing Bueckers. Within three weeks, she was on her way to Storrs to begin her collegiate career.

While she has experience playing on big stages — Bettencourt led Portugal at the 2022 FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship, Division B this summer — Auriemma says she still has some adjusting to do in preparation for the college season.

"When she’s good, she’s really good," Auriemma said. "And when she’s not, she’s trying to catch up because this game is being played at a much faster, much more physical style than she’s used to, but she surprises these guys a lot by how sneaky quick she is and what a good athlete she is.

"We didn’t expect her to come in here and be Paige and so she’s been everything I expected her to be."

Without Bueckers, fellow European Nika Mühl (from Croatia) will start at point guard with Bettencourt as a backup option on the bench. Azzi Fudd will also handle the ball and play the point, perhaps when Mühl is on the bench and UConn is deploying a bigger lineup.

So Bettencourt will provide depth for a depleted roster. But if the season unfolds like last year when UConn endured injury after injury, she could be pressed into duty.

Ice Brady

Brady had a whirlwind summer.

Less than a week after graduating high school, she joined Team USA at the 2022 FIBA U18 Americas Championship in Argentina. Two days after winning her first gold medal, she arrived in Storrs to begin her first offseason training with UConn.

Brady, a 6-3 post player from San Diego, was the No. 5-ranked recruit in the Class of 2022 by ESPN. She was a McDonald’s All-American and the 2021 San Diego Sports Association Player of the Year. As a senior last season, she averaged 20.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.

However, the freshman will have to wait a year before making her collegiate debut.

On Oct. 21, Brady suffered a dislocated patella injury during practice forcing her to sit out the 2022-23 season.

"Everybody was just really disappointed for Ice because she had worked really really hard," Auriemma said. "She had made so much progress and fit in so easily into what we were doing offensively, defensively."

Brady had an opportunity to earn minutes, given UConn's frontcourt. Looking ahead, she figures to be a big part of he program in the coming years. Juhász will be gone after this season and Edwards will have one more season left, so the Huskies will need a post player to emerge. @maggie_vanoni