On draft night 2019, Katie Lou Samuelson’s WNBA career started off with nothing but positivity and high expectations. She was a UConn legend, drafted fourth overall by the Chicago Sky, and was congratulated by Larry Bird himself on draft night.
From there on out, it was less than stellar for Katie Lou. She had inconsistent playing time in Chicago and has since bounced around the league, playing for four different teams in her four seasons in the W. The sky was the limit for Katie Lou, but now being grounded didn’t seem so bad. Playing for the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2022 season, the hope was she could hit some shots, play solid defense, and play a shift or two a night.
Katie Lou Samuelson has gone on to perform above and beyond any expectations one could’ve had of her going into the season. Her numbers are up in virtually every statistical category. She’s averaging 10.7 points and 2.0 assists per game, and shooting 42 percent from three. Her role has increased along with her production. She’s averaging 29 minutes a game, and her performance has been so good that she has already received a contract extension for the 2023 season from the Sparks.
The Huntington Beach native has returned home and has found success. “This is my home, and I’ve grown up watching the Sparks my whole life.” Katie Lou Samuelson said shortly after signing her contract extension. “I’m happy I can be a part of the team for multiple seasons to continue building and growing on and off the court.”
But why has she found so much success? What has made her stint with the Sparks her best so far? Like most basketball things, it starts on the defensive end. Katie Lou discussed what she would bring to the Sparks defensively once she signed her contract before she ever put on the purple and gold jersey.
“Defensively, because of how long I am, I kind of bring versatility in terms of being able to help in other ways that people can’t sometimes as guards, so I’m able to switch more,” she said. This turned out to be 100 percent accurate for Katie Lou this year. She’s strong enough to handle forwards and quick enough to defend guards.
This is a stark contrast from her rookie season when she was a bit weaker, slower, and struggling to be a solid defender. Now she has quick lateral movement, is strong enough to fight over screens, and has improved on her closeouts. No shot is uncontested when Katie Lou is defending. She always has her hands up and is able to get into a shooters space without getting into foul trouble. She’s averaging 0.8 steals a night and 2.4 of her 3 rebounds a game are defensive rebounds, which ends offensive possessions for the opposing team.
On the offensive side there was never a question of what Katie Lou could be, the encouraging part is she’s starting to become those things. Her 42 percent from three is impressive, but the fact that she’s doing it on 4.6 attempts a night is astounding. A perfect example of this was Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Mystics where she went 4-for-5 from three and scored 16 points in her 31 minutes of play. She was just three points away from tying her career high of 19 which she got this season against the Indiana Fever. Katie Lou is known for being a shooter, but she’s also improved other aspects of her offensive game. Her passing has gotten better as she’s averaging the most assists of her career and her free throw percentage is up to 83 percent, which is a career high as well.
The WNBA is one of the hardest leagues to compete and stay in. With so few roster spots available, some great players often end up out of the league. Katie Lou Samuelson has proven her skeptics wrong and her believers right and has not only stayed in the league, but has begun to thrive here in Los Angeles.
“My teammates have full confidence in me,” she said. “They’ve really expressed that, it’s been nice to feel so welcomed and feel like you fit right in.” Katie Lou’s career year continues Thursday night when she faces off against the team that drafted her in 2019, the Chicago Sky.