Katie Lou Samuelson up to 1, down to 5
Two people who know Katie Lou Samuelson well are guessing her college decision will come down to NCAA finalist Notre Dame and national champion Connecticut.
But Samuelson, a 6-foot-3 wing at Mater Dei (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and the new No. 1 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2015 class, says five schools are still in the mix.
In addition to UConn and Notre Dame, there's Stanford, where her older sisters Bonnie and Karlie play. Then there's UCLA, which just landed the No. 1 class for 2014. And also Kentucky, which has a coaching staff that Samuelson clicks with.
The where remains a mystery, but the when, Samuelson says, is a bit more clear. The Gatorade player of the year from California says she is determined to make up her mind over the next few months so she can sign early.
Samuelson said she followed on Twitter when A'ja Wilson, the nation's No. 1 recruit from 2014, announced her decision to go to South Carolina on ESPNU.
"I think if that was her best decision, that's great, and I'm happy for her," said Samuelson, who made an official visit to Connecticut this past weekend. "But I personally don't know if I want to wait that long. I want to sign in November, hopefully."
Russ Davis, who has known Samuelson since she was in fifth grade and has coached her for years on the AAU level for Cal Swish, said a lot will depend on the chemistry "Lou" feels during her visits.
"Ultimately, I think it will be a two-horse race between Notre Dame and UConn," he said. "Does Lou want to go to the school that's on top, which is UConn? Or does she want to try to put Notre Dame over the hump?
"But that's just guesswork on my part. Lou is not telling. And that's smart. If she already knew, she would have announced it, so I think she's keeping her options open right now."
Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan, who also has known Samuelson for years, has a similar view.
"If I had to bet my life on it, Notre Dame and UConn are two tough places to turn down," he said. "She has a tough call to make.
"All I know is that whoever signs her is going to get a great player who will be able to step in right away."
Samuelson made her UConn visit along with three other elite players from the 2015 class, including Napheesa Collier, a 6-1 wing from Incarnate Word Academy (St. Louis, Mo.) who gave a verbal commitment to UConn on Sunday. Haley Gorecki, a 6-foot wing from William Fremd (Palatine, Ill.), and De'Janae Boykin, a 6-2 forward from C.H. Flowers (Springdale, Md.), both visited with Samuelson and remain undeclared.
Among Samuelson's highlights during her trip to Storrs was meeting guard Shabazz Napier, who led the UConn men's team to the NCAA title earlier this month, twinning with the women's championship.
More recruiting adventures are surely on the way for Samuelson, who plans to visit all of her finalists.
The hard part will be finding the time because Samuelson is hoping to spend her summer with Team USA's U17 team, which is scheduled to play in the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship in the Czech Republic, June 28-July 6. Tryouts are May 22-26 and training camp is scheduled for June 12-17 before the team departs for an exhibition tournament in France June 20-22.
Aside from her duties with Team USA and Cal Swish, her schoolwork and her mission to choose a college, Samuelson's other goal this spring and summer is to continue to get stronger. Long and lanky, Samuelson has gone from 6-3 and 150 pounds a year ago to her present weight of 165, and she feels she is much stronger on the court.
"I'm able to take more contact," she said. "I'm not getting pushed around as much as I was, especially when I'm posting up."
It's hard to imagine Samuelson getting any better than she was last season, when she averaged 26.3 points and 9.8 rebounds for Mater Dei (27-3), which spent nearly three months atop the espnW 25 power rankings.
Mater Dei was knocked out of the top spot after a 61-46 loss to Windward (Los Angeles) in the CIF Southern Section Open final. Windward, led by star guard and 2014 UCLA recruit Jordin Canada, held Samuelson to 14 points -- but there were extenuating circumstances. While battling for a rebound with Windward forward and USC recruit Kristen Simon, Samuelson hyperextended her left (non-shooting) elbow. The injury continued to bother her during a subsequent 64-46 loss to Long Beach Poly in the state regional semifinals.
"It was hurting pretty bad," said Samuelson, who was held to 17 points against Poly. "It was one of the worst injuries I've ever had. They wrapped it up, but it was like playing with one arm. It was annoying."
Samuelson said she's honored to be the No. 1 junior recruit -- "it's amazing to even be up there, let alone to be at the top" -- but Davis is not surprised she is getting national attention. He suspected early on that Katie Lou would be the best of the three Samuelson sisters. That's saying something because Bonnie, a 6-3 junior forward, was the fourth-leading scorer for Stanford (33-4), and Karlie, a 6-foot freshman, was seventh.
"She's driven," Davis said of Katie Lou. "By the seventh or eighth grade, her shooting form was picture-perfect. Now she gets it off so quickly.
"All three girls are very competitive. Lou is just feisty. I never heard Karlie or Bonnie say they wanted to be the best in the country, but I've heard Lou say that. She knows she has ability, and she doesn't want it to go to waste."