Auriemma impressed with newcomer Lopez Senechal
Storrs — When Fairfield University graduate Lou Lopez Senechal first signed to play for the UConn women's basketball team, using her remaining year of eligibility, UConn coach Geno Auriemma received a phone call from Fairfield athletic director Paul Schlickmann.
"Paul said, 'In my 32 years of being in college athletics, I've never met a finer kid, a more competitive kid, a more engaging kid, a great teammate and she's tough as hell,'" Auriemma recounted Thursday from the Werth Family Champions Center, where the Huskies have begun their summer workouts.
"That's exactly what I've seen since she's been here."
So far, Auriemma likes a few things the most about Senechal, a 6-foot-1 guard/forward from Grenoble, France.
She's one of five healthy players right now — "If the season starts tomorrow, she'd start and play 40 minutes," he said with a laugh. Also, her parents, Tim and Sophie, came to visit from France and brought the Hall of Fame coach a bottle of wine, causing him to wish they would visit more often.
Also, there's a matter of Lopez Senechal's versatility.
While she played forward at Fairfield, which finished 25-6 last season with an NCAA tournament bid, she will undertake more of a backcourt role at UConn. She has often been paired in individual workouts with UConn star guard Paige Bueckers.
At Fairfield, Lopez Senechal finished with 1,598 points — sixth in program history — and 470 rebounds, shooting 43.3% percent overall, 38.8% from 3-point range. She was the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year and three-time All-MAAC first team selection. She graduated from Fairfield last month with a degree in marketing.
"You know me," Auriemma said. "I value kids that can play a lot of different positions and are skilled," said Auriemma, whose team advanced to its 14th straight Final Four last season, falling to South Carolina in the national championship game in Minneapolis. "They can dribble, they can pass, they can catch, they can shoot. I have an affinity toward those guys, so we'll see."
"I'm going to embrace any role that I have," Lopez Senechal said. "I'm not looking for one particular role. There's other great, talented players here so I don't have one specific idea. I'm open to anything. I'm trying to embrace what role I'm going to have. Definitely, they're using me more as an outside threat on the wing, not really on the post. I'm just learning a lot from my teammates, whatever role I have."
Lopez Senechal said the biggest difference at UConn is that the offense is more fast-paced, with fewer set plays, something she enjoys. Also, she's come to find that the Huskies "focus on every little detail."
When she decided to leave Fairfield, wanting to challenge herself at a higher level, she didn't really expect to be contacted by UConn.
"When UConn reached out to me, it really became my top priority," she said. "I visited. I met everyone. I think that it was a no-brainer for me for that one year, that challenge that I was looking for. I think UConn would be the best place for that.
"... It's been good. I'm really excited about it. A fast transition for me. I graduated two weeks ago and had to come right away. But it's been going really well. I'm learning a lot and embracing every day here. Every time I step in the building, I feel very fortunate. I don't want to take for granted anything. It's a great opportunity for me. It's very demanding. All the coaches have really high expectations on me, on all of us. It's the challenge that I was looking for."
Auriemma said the players working out regularly so far are Nika Muhl, Bueckers, Lopez Senechal, Aaliyah Edwards and freshman Ayanna Patterson, with most of the rest of the players falling into some kind of post-surgery protocol. Freshman Ice Brady was named recently to the USA Basketball U18 National Team and will compete in the FIBA Americas Championship in Buenos Aires from June 13-19.