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UConn WBB Weekly: The Huskies’ history with international players

The Huskies added their fifth international player to the roster when they brought out Inês Bettencourt last week.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

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  • UConn commit KK Arnold won gold with Team USA at the FIBA U18 3x3 World Cup
  • Breanna Stewart earned First Team All-WNBA Defensive Team honors while Gabby Williams earned a spot on the second team.

UConn’s history with international players

This article was originally published on June 14, 2020. It has been edited and updated.

Last Friday, UConn women’s basketball announced a late addition to its 2022-23 roster: Inês Bettencourt, a point guard from the Azores in Portugal. She’s the fifth international player on the Huskies, joining Lou Lopez Sénéchal (France/Mexico), Dorka Juhász (Hungary), Aaliyah Edwards (Canada) and Nika Mühl (Croatia). While UConn isn’t a stranger to international players, it’s never had this many on a single team. In fact, the program’s had just nine other international players in its history.

Let’s look back on all of them.

Inês Bettencourt — São Miguel, Azores, Portugal (2022-present)

Bettencourt was originally headed to Northwest Florida, a junior college, before UConn came calling. The Huskies needed another point guard after Paige Bueckers tore her ACL and ultimately decided on Bettencourt, the Portuguese youth international.

Lou Lopez Sénéchal — Grenoble, France (2022-present)

Lopez Sénéchal was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, grew up in Grenoble, France, and spent a year in Dublin, Ireland before coming to the states. She was a bonafide star for four seasons at Fairfield, earning 2022 MAAC Player of the Year as well as three All-MAAC First Team selections. Last season, she led the Stags to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001.

This offseason, UConn turned to the transfer portal to shore up its backcourt. Lopez Sénéchal proved to be a perfect fit as someone who wanted to challenge herself at the highest level of Division I in her fifth season. Now, she’ll be called upon to help replace Bueckers.

Dorka Juhász — Pecs, Hungary (2021-present)

Auriemma brought Juhász in from Ohio State hoping she’d be the piece to put the Huskies over the top and end the national championship drought. She never got a chance to prove him right after fracturing her wrist in the Elite Eight win over NC State. Once that happened, Juhász decided to return to UConn for her fifth and final season of eligibility.

Juhász has spent time with the Hungarian national team like her mother, Hajnalka Balazs. According to Hearst CT’s Mike Anthony, Balazs’ professional team played the Huskies in a 1993 exhibition at Gampel Pavilion and she finished with seven points in 20 minutes off the bench. UConn won 97-75. Now, Balazs gets to watch her daughter play for the Huskies on that same floor.

“It was an unforgettable experience, and it is even more special to me that my daughter got a chance to be playing for UConn and coach Geno Auriemma,” Balazs wrote to Anthony.

Aaliyah Edwards — Kingston, Ontario, Canada (2020-present)

Of the Huskies’ current crop of internationals, Edwards is the most involved with her country’s national team. She spent all of last summer with Canada, playing first at the FIBA AmeriCup and later traveling to Tokyo for the Olympics. This year, Edwards played with Canada’s U23 team at the GLOBL Jam Tournament and made the training camp roster ahead of the FIBA World Cup in Australia.

Edwards has been an important building block in the low post through her first two seasons. But with Olivia Nelson-Ododa gone, Dorka Juhász recovering from her wrist injury and a pair of freshmen bigs coming in, UConn needs Edwards to finally make the leap to stardom.

Nika Mühl — Zagreb, Croatia (2020-present)

While the Huskies often turn to Europe when they have a glaring need on the roster but can’t find the right fit with North American prospects, Mühl is the exception. She arrived with Bueckers in the class of 2020 and didn’t earn much playing time until the second half of her freshman year. Since then, Mühl has proven to be indispensable for the Huskies.

Anna Makurat — Sierakowice, Poland (2019-2021)

Similar to the addition of Bettencourt, UConn looked to Europe when it found itself paper thin in the backcourt ahead of the 2019-20 season with only Crystal Dangerfield, Christyn Williams and Molly Bent on the roster and found Makurat in Poland. She took some time to settle in but once she did, she became of the Huskies’ best offensive players down the stretch. A foot injury derailed Makurat’s sophomore campaign and even after she returned, she never re-found her footing. She entered the transfer portal but then signed professionally in Europe after the 2020-21 season.

Makurat signed with Sassari in Italy for the upcoming European season. Her sister, Agata, is committed to play for former UConn assistant Shea Ralph at Vanderbilt in 2023.

Evelyn Adebayo — London, England (2019-20)

The first grad transfer to come to UConn, Adebayo was a lottery ticket-type addition to a roster that badly needed depth, well, everywhere in 2019-20. It didn’t work out as the former Murray State star never cracked Geno Auriemma’s rotation, see action in 22 contests with a final line of 1.0 points and 2.1 rebounds in 6.5 minutes per game.

Kia Nurse — Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (2014-18)

A four-year starter for the Huskies, Nurse finished her career as the ultimate three-and-D player. She ranks 10th in made three-pointers and fourth in three-point percentage in program history. She also won the WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2018.

Though she was never named an All-American, Nurse played a critical role on two national title teams and is generally regarded as one of the top defenders to come through UConn. She’s currently in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury but didn’t play this past season while recovering from a torn ACL.

Jessica McCormack — Auckland, New Zealand (2008-09)

McCormack had one of the most bizarre tenures at UConn. She transferred in after her freshman year at Washington and sat out the 2008-09 campaign due to transfer rules. That February, she returned home to New Zealand to have surgery on her right achilles tendon and never came back.

While home, McCormack realized basketball no longer made her happy and she decided to stay in New Zealand to pursue a career playing netball.

Rashidat Sadiq — Lagos, Nigeria (2004-05)

Sadiq came to UConn as one of the top junior college players in the nation after she finished second in the NJCAA with 25 points per game, which earned her All-American honors. However, she never meshed in Auriemma’s system and after averaging just 2.3 points, 1.2 rebounds and 5.9 minutes in 26 games, Sadiq transferred to Oklahoma State for her final year of eligibility.

Svetlana Abrosimova — St. Petersburg, Russia (1997-2001)

Undoubtedly the best international player to come through UConn, Abrosimova is also one of the most overlooked stars in the program’s history. She was the school’s first three-time All-American and helped lead the Huskies to the 2000 national championship. If a foot injury in February didn’t prematurely end her season in 2001, UConn probably would’ve won back-to-back titles — or five straight, considering the Huskies also won in 2002, ‘03 and ‘04.

The St. Petersburg native went on to have an 11-year career in the WNBA that included a 2010 championship with the Minnesota Lynx. Abrosimova spent time as the general manager of the Russian National Team at one point as well.

Christine Rigby — Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (1999-2001)

Rigby didn’t exactly have the background of a typical UConn player. She didn’t begin playing basketball until eighth grade and sat the bench for most her high school career until breaking out as a senior. Rigby went to Santa Clara and became the school’s all-time leading shot blocker in two seasons but wanted more.

So Rigby transferred across the country to UConn even though she knew her playing time would diminish. She joined the Huskies for the 1998-99 season but wasn’t eligible until the 1999-2000 campaign, where she was part of the team’s national championship squad. Though she averaged just 3.0 points per game over her UConn career, Rigby put up a career high 21 points on senior night in 2001.

Kelly Schumacher — Quyon, Quebec, Canada (1997-2001)

An American-born Canadian, Schumacher took full advantage of her career at UConn. After a mostly unremarkable four years in Storrs (outside an NCAA-record nine block performance in the 2000 national title game) in which she averaged just 5.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 13.9 minutes per game, she was selected in the first round (14th overall) in the WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever.

From there, she spent nine years in the league and won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008 with two different teams before moving into coaching. Schumacher (now Raimon) joined the Dallas Wings last year after two-year stints with both the new York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces.

Tihana Abrlic — Zagreb, Crotia (1997-99)

UConn’s first Croatian guard, Abrlic came to Storrs via Central Florida Community College. Though she helped lead her team to the national title game the year before at Central Florida CC, Abrlic never found her groove with the Huskies and finished her career with just 1.5 points in 9.5 minutes per game over two years.

Orly Grossman — Tel Aviv, Israel (1990-91)

A year after Nadav Henefeld joined UConn men’s basketball from Israel, Grossman made her way to UConn after two years at University of Tel Aviv and played a key role on the Huskies’ first Final Four squad with 8.1 points and 3.6 rebounds in 32 games. Despite enjoying her time in Storrs, Grossman returned home after the Persian Gulf War broke out in order to be with her family during the crisis.

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