It came as a surprise to many when the Chicago Sky drafted UConn sharp-shooter Katie Lou Samuelson with the fourth overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft. Chicago is a team with more than enough scoring, with players like Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Diamond DeShields, Cheyenne Parker, and Stefanie Dolson on its roster. It was clear that with the selection of Samuelson that the Sky intends to become an offensive juggernaut this season.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Katie Lou to the Chicago Sky family,” Sky general manager and head coach James Wade said on draft night. “She is a winner – that goes unquestioned – and an incredibly smart, tough player. Katie Lou is someone who can not only play with everyone on our roster, but will make everyone on our roster better.”
Samuelson left the Huskies fifth on the program’s all-time scoring list, with 2.342 points, and ranked second in three-point field goals, with 382. She was also a two-time AP first team All-American and a 2016 NCAA champion. She’s a winner that brings a winning pedigree to a franchise that has played well below average since losing All-Star Elena Delle Donne and head coach Pokey Chatman in 2016.
Chicago finished near the bottom of the WNBA in defense in 2018, giving up 90.1 points per game, while their opponents shot 46.2 percent against them. Samuelson wasn’t brought aboard for her defensive acumen, but Wade believes that her length will help his team out when it comes to getting stops.
“She’s someone that can space the floor, someone that can be a playmaker from the four position, she makes good decisions, her attention to detail is really good,” Wade said. “She’s been a pleasure to have. We expect for her to space the floor, attack closeouts, move the ball, and also being another long defender that we need.”
With the approval of her teammates and coaches, Samuelson now looks to add onto her legacy in the professional ranks and carry on the UConn tradition of doing nothing but winning.
How has camp been for you so far?
It’s been really good. It’s been really intense. A lot of up and down work. I’m excited to get started.
What’s been the toughest thing for you to pick up?
Just the pace and physicality of the game.
What part of your game are you working on improving the most?
Definitely defense and just trying to make sure that I can keep people in front of me.
Have any of the vets taken you under their wing?
Absolutely. A lot of people have done a really good job of helping me out. Clearly, (former Husky teammate) Gabby (Williams) and I are pretty close, so she’s guided me through everything. Diamond, Stef, Allie and Sloot have really done a good job of helping me out when things aren’t going my way and helping me figure out what else I can do.
How excited were you to be reunited with Gabby Williams?
It was awesome. Super excited. I actually couldn’t believe it. For us to be on the same team again is a lot of fun.
Take me back to draft night. How did you feel when you heard you’d been drafted by the Sky?
It was amazing. I didn’t necessarily expect to come here, so that was super exciting. Thinking of the fact that I get to play with Gabby it all came together and was unbelievable.
Where did you expect to go?
I don’t know, but I hadn’t talked to coach here so I didn’t expect to come here.
As a freshman you won a national championship, and your game grew in the following years; what was your favorite moment from your time at UConn?
I don’t know if I can specifically think of a moment. I know in this past senior year I had a lot of fun just figuring out, especially with the team specifically that I was on, what we could do together. We made it to the Final Four at the end and we didn’t necessarily know at the beginning of the season that we would be there. This past year was definitely a lot of fun basketball wise.
What advice has your sister, (former Stanford standout) Karlie, given you about transitioning to the pros?
Just to stay confident in yourself and believe that you can do it. When it comes down to it, you have to look out for yourself out here. It’s different than being in college. You have to make sure that you bring it every single day and you compete because you’re fighting for a spot, every day. Even if you’re on a team you want to prove that you’re able to play at this level.
Has coach Wade given you a defined role for this team?
I’ve actually been in a lot of different roles since we’ve started. I’ve played in a lot of different positions in our offense, so where ever he feels like putting me – in the post or on the wing – I’m ready to go.
Is it important for you to be a starter on this team?
No. I think for me I’m just trying to play the best I can. Whether that’s starting or coming off the bench I’m still going to play the best game that I play.
What do you hope to achieve in your rookie season?
I’m hoping that we’re able to make the playoffs.