Katie Lou Samuelson takes her own shot
When one Samuelson girl would make 10 straight shots in practice, the others would be determined to sink 11 … or 12.
When Bonnie, the oldest of the talented sisters, started playing the piano, Karlie and Katie Lou made it their mission to outperform her.
And when it came time to walk the family dog -- a golden retriever named Sami -- the girls would race to see who could complete the task in the quickest and most efficient manner.
"No matter what we were doing, we always wanted to be the best," said Katie Lou Samuelson, the youngest of the three girls. "It didn't matter if we were swimming laps in the pool or anything else. We always want to win."
That competitive spirit was fueled in part by the girls' father, Jon Samuelson, who at 6-foot-6 briefly played pro ball in England, where he met his wife, Karen, who is 5-11. Karen played club basketball on an amateur basis in her native England.
Jon still tinkers with his daughters' shooting forms, as needed, and there is no doubt that the girls have taken to the family game exceptionally well.
Bonnie, a former McDonald's All American at Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.), is a 6-3 junior wing at Stanford who last year led the Cardinal in 3-pointers. She was on Great Britain's 20-player, training-camp roster, competing for a spot in the 2012 Olympics, before being sidelined by a broken finger.
Karlie, a 6-foot shooting guard who starred last season at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), has followed Bonnie to Stanford and will be a freshman this season.
And Katie Lou is a star wing at Mater Dei, where she is the nation's No. 2 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the class of 2015.
The three girls have engaged in countless and fierce one-on-one basketball games over the years, but one battle that Katie Lou can claim forever is the tale of the tape. At 6-3½, she is the tallest of the Samuelson girls.
Whether Katie Lou ultimately becomes the best of the three girls remains to be seen. But she is highly ambitious, with dreams of making the USA Olympic team as well as playing pro ball.
And don't expect Katie Lou to automatically follow her sisters to Stanford. She is independent-minded and is carefully considering all her options.
If there is one basketball skill that connects the three girls, it is exceptional shooting.
At the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 championship final in Mexico, Katie Lou made 8 of 8 3-pointers to lead USA to the gold medal. She scored 24 points in the 82-48 win over Canada.
"The great thing about Lou is her quick release," Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan said. "She gets off her shot even when she is closely guarded. She's been working on that with her dad since she was a little kid.
"To have a tall girl like her who can stretch the floor is a big advantage."
As good as she is, Katie Lou has been working to improve her release point since her freshman year.
Working closely with her dad, she has raised her release from the chest area to over her head. Sometimes, on really long shots, her release point will lower a bit as she muscles up.
"That's a strength thing," said Katie Lou, who has been lifting weights for the past year to address the issue.
Kiernan, though, insists that Katie Lou has no problems shooting from long distances.
"She has incredible range," Kiernan said. "She makes shots from the NBA 3-point line. I don't think she even looks at the line, especially in transition.
"She takes some shots that people might think, 'What is she doing from 25 feet out?' But we're fine with that. She has the green light."
Change is coming
This is the first year that both of Katie Lou's sisters are away at college, a thought that makes this happy teenager a bit "sad and lonely."
It will also be a transition playing without Karlie, who averaged 19 points as a WBCA All-American last season, drawing attention away from Katie Lou.
Last season, Katie Lou averaged 22 points and made first-team all-state and was named Orange County Register player of the year, beating out her sister for those honors. She also was the MVP of the prestigious Tournament of Champions on a team that went 30-2, losing in the regional finals.
Four starters return, and even though Kiernan expects a plethora of box-and-one and other "junk" defenses designed to slow down Katie Lou, Mater Dei should have enough weapons to make another deep playoff run.
"She saw a little bit of that this past summer in club season," Kiernan said. "Teams were face-guarding her. They are not going to just let her shoot. She has to use screens and work to get open. Lou is fast, but she is going to get guarded by more-athletic players.
"For her this year, it's not so much about the shots going in -- because every time she shoots I think it's going in. It's about getting her shot off."
Katie Lou's goal is to become the first girl in her family to win a state title.
And there may be another "first" on the horizon. She could be the first of the three girls not to choose Stanford.
The past two years have been difficult for the Samuelsons. Jon lost his brother, Mikey, who died of a sudden illness, and his father, Jerry.
Karen said those tragic events shaped Karlie's college choice of Stanford.
"Karlie loved UConn," Karen said. "That was her dream school. She loves Stanford -- don't get me wrong. But after those two deaths in the family, she wanted to stay closer to home."
When it comes time for Katie Lou to choose a college -- which could happen over the next several months -- the Samuelsons don't want her to feel any pressure or make any compromise.
Aside from Stanford, Katie Lou is considering Notre Dame, UConn, Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, Washington and UCLA.
The plan is to visit Notre Dame this fall, UConn in January and "go from there," Karen said.
Unlike Karlie, who didn't talk much about college before making her decision and even told her AAU coach before revealing her choice to her parents, Katie Lou is more open and enjoying the process.
Katie Lou, who has a 4.2 GPA, said her sisters are not trying to recruit her to Stanford.
"My sisters know I'm a different person than they are," Katie Lou said. "I'm more independent.
"I'm just excited to go visit all these schools and find out about which one is best for me."