Katie Lou Samuelson has been hooping for so long that she can’t even remember when she started. She was just always in the gym.
“I have two older sisters and when they started playing basketball I would always be over on the sidelines,” Samuelson says.
The 6-3 forward has become one of the best players in the nation. She’s a lock to be a top-five pick in this year’s WNBA Draft. Her career at UConn has been filled with accomplishments and awards that stick out even in the Huskies’ storied history. By the time we went to print she had racked up over 2,200 career points during her time in Storrs, placing her fourth in UConn women’s basketball scoring history. She’s second in made three-pointers, has two First-Team All-American selections, two AAC Conference Player of the Year trophies and she was on the squad that won the 2016 national championship.
And before all of that Samuelson was feasting on the high school level. She was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year when she was a senior at Mater Dei (CA), she won three Trinity League chips and set just about all of the scoring and shooting records in Monarchs history. She broke up all that winning by securing five total gold medals with Team USA between 2013 and 2014.
But it took a minute for all of those victories to happen. When Katie Lou was still young, her sisters, Bonnie and Karlie, consistently bullied her on the court. They could hoop for real, too. They both wound up playing at Stanford and whenever they would match up against Katie Lou the games “would usually end in a fight.”
They didn’t realize they were creating a monster. For as polite, patient and easy-going as Katie Lou is off the court, she had been developing an appetite for basketball destruction. And her sisters were the first people standing in her way.
“When I was in middle school, one of my coaches said something to me, like, that I had the chance to be better than my sisters,” Samuelson says. “Once they said that, it was just over. I had to do that.”
Katie Lou is extremely close with her sisters. All of their social media pages are flooded with loving photos of each other. But back then, when there was a chance to beat them, she was ready. She had been diligently practicing shooting with her father, John, a former pro that played in Europe, for years.
“Shooting was the first thing I did,” she says. “Like, every day with my dad, we’d go get shots up.”
Samuelson had been perfecting her form and working on catch-and-shoot mechanics when she was as young as 7 years old. The rain really hasn’t stopped since then. She knocked down 47.5 percent of her long range shots as a junior. She went 10-10 from distance in one game as a sophomore. She’s shot at least 81 percent from the foul line in every single one of her seasons at UConn.
Samuelson’s overall game has evolved, too. She still has the chopper, of course, but she’s added a steady ability to drive the lane, shown improvement in court vision and she’s been hitting the glass. Her 3.8 assists per game as a senior is nearly double her 2.2 average as a freshman. She had one double-double in her first three seasons. This year she’s had six of them, effectively going after rebounds.
With the WNBA calling and her time as a Husky almost complete, Samuelson takes a moment to look back.
“For me, the craziest thing was taking that chance to come all the way across the country and really live in a different world than I’ve ever been a part of,” she says. “And I think that paid off for me more than anything else has.”
Photos via Getty.