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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Latest UConn recruit "set to flourish"

Even while UConn was unsuccessfully recruiting her two older sisters, there was always plenty of hype surrounding Katie Lou Samuelson.

Before she played a game in high school she was being touted as the best of the sweet-shooting Samuelson sisters. With her commitment to UConn last night, the predictions of greatness have only increased.

Russ Davis, the highly-respected coach of the powerhouse Cal Swish program, has coached more than his share of Division I standouts and WNBA players and he said "she is the best player I have ever had, best all-around players. She has a chance to do some crazy stuff over there, I am looking forward to watching her grow."

Samuelson has an intriguing skill set as she is a 6-foot-3 wing with seemingly unlimited range on her jumper but she continues to work on expanding her game on both ends of the court.

"People always talk about her shooting because it is just ridiculous but she can get to the basket, she can rebound, she can block shots, she can post up," Davis said. "She has this summer, all next year and the following summer before she gets there. I told her last night, ‘the neat thing about this Lou is you haven’t even scratched the surface because your ceiling is so high.' He (UConn coach Geno Auriemma) does a great job with the player development stuff and you are only going to get better and better playing around with great players. With us she gets doubled and tripled team and that is not going to happen at UConn playing with so many great players so I think she is really going to flourish."

Samuelson was California's Gatorade State Player of the Year as a junior when she averaged 26.3 points per game and had 74 3-pointers at Mater Dei. She is following in the footsteps of another former Mater Dei phenom in committing to UConn early. Things have worked about pretty well for UConn rising senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, a two-time team scoring champion, an All-American and key member on a pair of national championship teams.

"They are very different players," Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan said. "They are both very competitive people and I think they love the family atmosphere at UConn, that's important to them."

While it is not a shocker that Samuelson picked UConn but it was not necessarily expected to happen this early.

"She wanted to have respect for all five (finalists)," Kiernan said. "But UConn was her first (official) visit, she really loved it and she didn't want to waste their time."

Davis gives much of the credit to Auriemma, who is no stranger to the Samuelson family having recruited both Bonnie and Karlie.

"I thought for a long time it was a two-horse race between Notre Dame and Connecticut because she wanted to play for one of the best programs and right now those two are arguably the two best programs," Davis said. "She said last night she wanted to play for Coach (Auriemma). What people forget is that the Samuelsons have known them for seven or eight years now because they recruited all the Samuelsons so they really got the chance to know the family, know the kids and that relationship was built for a long time similar to Stanford for having those kids for so long so I think that relationship really helped them at the end.

"She can really play four positions if she needed to, she can even play the point guard for me. Coach does a really good job with those versatile players, he doesn’t even put (position) numbers on them, he looks at them as basketball players. I talked to Geno yesterday and he was really excited, he was really pumped. It was really cool to hear how excited he was."

Samuelson and Mater Dei played at the HoopHall Classic in January but Kiernan said there are no games scheduled around these parts during Samuelson's senior season.

The last Cal Swish player to come to UConn was Lauren Engeln, who played sparingly in two seasons before transferring to Boston College. After sitting out a season due to NCAA transfer regulations, Engeln started all 31 games and averaged 7.4 points per game for the Eagles.

"Lauren just wants to play," Davis said. "Lauren is a gym rat. It was tough for her (getting playing time at UConn) but she knew that going in. She got so much better when she was there and the good thing is she has all those great friends and there was never a bad word spoken between them. At the end of day, Lauren knew it was going to be hard for her to get minutes there and that kid just wants to play basketball so she wanted to go somewhere where she had the opportunity to get on the court more in games versus just in practice but those two years at UConn really helped her become a lot better basketball player, helped her with her work ethic so she was really appreciative of the two years she spent there."



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