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How Inês Bettencourt went from junior college signee to UConn in nine days

The freshman guard from Portugual was a late addition to the UConn roster after Paige Bueckers went down with a torn ACL.

It took just nine days for Inês Bettencourt’s life to completely change.

In mid-August, she was a little-known prospect out of the Azores in Portugal. She hadn’t garnered much interest during her recruitment, so she decided to play at Northwest Florida — a junior college — to get her foot in the door in the United States college system.

Nine days later, UConn women’s basketball announced Bettencourt as a late addition to the team’s freshman class. She’ll come in alongside two top-10 prospects and McDonald's All-Americans in Ice Brady and Ayanna Patterson. The Huskies will be counting on her to help replace the best player in the country — Paige Bueckers — as well.

The entire recruiting process unfolded at warp speed.

“It is really crazy because I was expecting to go to another place,” Bettencourt said on Thursday. “When I got this offer. I couldn’t refuse it.”

Speed was a necessity in the process. Paige Bueckers tore her ACL on Aug. 1 — leaving the Huskies with just four guards and only one true point guard — just four weeks before the start of the fall semester. They immediately turned their attention to European prospects and Bettencourt caught their eye at the Division B U18 European Championships.

Assistant coach Morgan Valley reached out to her first then Bettencourt and her entire family eventually spoke with the entire staff. UConn formally offered and she quickly accepted. While the Huskies weren’t the only program that offered her after Euros — Bettencourt chose to take her talents to Storrs.

“I mean, it’s UConn,” she said. “This is amazing.”

Saying yes to UConn proved to be the easy part. Once Bettencourt committed, she had to scramble to get all the necessary paperwork finished on time. This took until the Sunday night before the semester started. She flew to Connecticut on Monday, the first day of classes.

“I had to do the process all over again,” Bettencourt said. “It took a lot of days seated by my computer to do everything that I could.”

As crazy as the last couple of weeks have been for Bettencourt, her first week in Storrs has been even more of hectic. Before arriving, she’d never been to the United States and hadn’t even stepped on a college campus.

“I always have to speak English. The food, too — it’s a little bit different,” Bettencourt, who hopes to major in sport management, said. “The classes, it’s in English. I need to study hard.”

Luckily, the transition has been aided by her teammates — especially Nika Mühl, who came to UConn under similar circumstances. While Mühl committed a year and a half ahead of time — not one week prior — she knows what it’s like to move across the globe to a foreign country at such a young age.

“I can really like see myself in her. She’s 17, I was 18 when I first came here,” Mühl said about Bettencourt. “She looks a little bit lost (at times). We’re trying to show her around, teach her what’s going on, how everything’s gonna be.”

The two will get plenty familiar with each other throughout the season. With Bueckers out, Muhl and Bettencourt are the only healthy floor generals on UConn’s roster. When the team announced the addition of Bettencourt, Geno Auriemma called her “a true point guard” who can pass the ball or make shots. Bettencourt provided a similar scouting report on herself.

“I think I’m both,” Bettencourt said when asked if she considers herself a point guard or a combo guard. “When I do have to shoot, I shoot. When I have to pass, I pass. So I think I’m both. I’m not a selfish player.”

Even though UConn might not be where Bettencourt expected to be a month ago, her plan has always been to go to college. In Portugal, she would’ve had to choose between earning a college degree or playing basketball. She knew that if she came to the US, she’d have the opportunity to do both.

Bettencourt first started seriously considering the college route when she made it to a senior team at the club level. While the recruiting process began at that point, it never really took off. She was planning to go to the junior college level for increased exposure, and it still would’ve been a high level of play, since Northwest Florida won the NJCAA national championship in 2021.

UConn is a completely different animal, of course.

“In the beginning, it’s going to be hard, I know, because it’s a different country, a different way they play from European basketball. It’s more technical,” she said. “But I think I’m going to settle in.”