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Lou Lopez Sénéchal getting up to speed at UConn

The Fairfield transfer said the faster pace of play has been the biggest adjustment through her first week in Storrs.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 11 MAAC Womens Tournament - Niagara v Fairfield

After four years at Fairfield, Lou Lopez Sénéchal wanted a new challenge.

She’d more than proven herself in the MAAC, with three all-conference first-team selections, the 2022 MAAC Player of the Year award, and an NCAA Tournament appearance. Thanks to an extra year of eligibility from the COVID season, Lopez Sénéchal entered the transfer portal in search of a new home. At that point, UConn wasn’t even on her radar.

“To be honest, not really. I didn’t think they would even reach out to me,” she said. “I wanted to go to a higher level so I was expecting bigger schools from bigger conferences to reach out but I didn’t think UConn would.”

That changed when assistant coach Morgan Valley contacted her to establish the Huskies’ interest. Just like that, Lopez Sénéchal split her choices into two categories: UConn and everyone else.

“There were a few schools (also in the mix),” she said. “It was a lot, everyday, there was a lot to think about what could be the best option. But when UConn reached out to me, it really became my top priority.”

Lopez Sénéchal made her visit to see the facilities and meet the team to be certain it would be the right fit. Her parents even flew in from France to accompany her to Storrs. Once on campus, she didn’t have to think very hard about her decision.

“I had to make sure it would be a great option,” she said. “That’s why I visited. I met everyone, which was great, and I think it was a no-brainer for me for one year, for that challenge that I was looking for. I think UConn would be the best place for that.”

Lopez Sénéchal checked off all the boxes from the Huskies’ perspective, too. Although Geno Auriemma is wary of transfers, Lopez Sénéchal had completed her four years at Fairfield and just wanted something new — a similar situation that Dorka Juhász was in the summer prior.

The Stags were also coached by Joe Frager, a friend of Auriemma who had a similar coaching and program-building philosophy to the 11-time national champion, and UConn needed depth in the backcourt with just four other guards on the roster. Lopez Sénéchal fit the bill in every way.

“She fulfilled her commitment to Fairfield and was looking for an opportunity to play at a different level,” Auriemma said. “The way she played and the way Joe coached her is pretty much in line with what we do and how we do things. So I thought it was a perfect fit.”

Although Fairfield listed the 6-foot-1 Lopez Sénéchal as a forward, she played more like a guard as her 3-point attempts ranked in the 86th percentile nationally or better each of the last three seasons. While Frager sometimes used her height on the inside to exploit a matchup, Lopez Sénéchal mostly played around the perimeter.

UConn’s roster lists her as a guard/forward but if the first week of summer workouts is any indication, the coaching staff will deploy her in the backcourt.

“They’re using me more as an outside threat on the wing, not really in the post,” she said.

While UConn’s need for depth might’ve been the impetus for adding Lopez Sénéchal, she’ll certainly have an opportunity to contribute — especially with her shooting. Last season, the Huskies struggled from beyond the arc, hitting 33.8 percent of 3-pointers and just 31.7 percent outside of Azzi Fudd’s 43.0 percent mark. Lopez Sénéchal converted over 40 percent on triples over the last two seasons and 38.8 percent across her career. That’s where she could provide the most immediate impact next season.

But first, Lopez Sénéchal needs to get up to speed with the Huskies — literally. So far, her biggest adjustment has been figuring out UConn’s offense, which is not only a new system but requires quicker decisions than what she’s used to from Fairfield. It also operates less on plays and more on reading and reacting to what the defense does.

“The offense is definitely different. They have a faster pace. We ran more plays (at Fairfield), it was a little bit of a slower pace,” Lopez Sénéchal said. “In general, the pace of the offense is much faster, it’s less set plays.”

Lopez Sénéchal didn’t arrive in Storrs with any expectations — she said she’ll embrace whatever role she ends up having — but through one week of summer workouts, Auriemma says she’s fitting in well.

“She falls right into that category of a lot of our guards — except Nika — in that they’re a little bit challenged on the other end of the floor. So we’ll have to work around that,” he quipped. “But she’s exactly what I thought she’d be.”