As Breanna Stewart prepares to represent Team USA in the FIBA Championship in Turkey next week, what Huskies' fans hope is the next Breanna Stewart -- Katie Lou Samuelson -- is wrapping up a stint with the national team this summer that included two gold medals and a bronze.
But Samuelson, who will take time off to rest her ailing ankle, has no plans on coasting through her senior season of high school before graduating to Storrs a year from now.
“Playing with these two USA teams allowed me to see so many talented players and how hard they are willing to work,” Samuelson said, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “They also showed me my weaknesses. I really want to focus on being a better and quicker defender and on becoming more of an inside player.
“I need to be a better player and there are a lot of things that I need to do to be one. I know that I can’t slack off at all. I have a lot of work ahead of me.”
Sounds exactly like something a self-motivated, highly skilled player headed for UConn would say. Which, along with coach Geno Auriemma, goes a long way in explaining the program's sustained success.
Samuelson is battling through an ankle injury that slowed her at times in recent month, but not enough keep her from starting six of seven games in the U-17 FIBA World Championships where she averaged 13.9 points per contest, including draining six three-pointers in a semifinals win over Hungary. Team USA would beat Spain to win gold.
“Being able to hold that trophy in the air was awesome and made it all feel real,” Samuelson said. “We knew it was going to be tough and to win it the way we did, in a close game, made it that much more rewarding. Getting that trophy and wearing the gold medal meant the world.”
A month later, she and her teammates won another gold, this time at the Youth Olympic Games, and won a bronze for a third-place finish in the Games' three-point shootout. Now, with her senior season closely approaching, the goal is to get healthy.
“I’m not in any rush. Our season doesn’t fully start until late November so I have time. I want my ankle to be at a point where I don’t worry about it again.”