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2014-15 O.C. girls basketball player of the year: Katie Lou Samuelson, Mater Dei
Katie Lou Samuelson watched the NCAA women’s basketball national championship game in “enemy” territory Tuesday night.
With Mater Dei on spring break, she traveled to Stanford’s campus in Palo Alto to join her two sisters, Bonnie and Karlie, and all of their teammates on the Cardinal women’s basketball team, for a group viewing of Connecticut vs. Notre Dame.
For Samuelson, who will soon be playing for one of Stanford’s biggest rivals - Connecticut - it was a fairly typical move. Other players might not have dared; Samuelson dove into the middle of the gathering and had a great time watching the Huskies win another championship.
Fearlessness is just one of her many strengths, which is why Samuelson has been selected the Register’s Orange County player of the year for the third consecutive season.
Such an honor-filled resume begs the question: Is she the best girls high school basketball player in Orange County history?
“I think she’s the best offensive player the county’s ever seen,” said Monarchs coach Kevin Kiernan, who has coached in some capacity locally for the past 30 years. “I’ve never seen a kid that size (6-foot-3) shoot the ball that well.
“I hate to put her above Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) and Jeanette Pohlen, who was a great player, but I’ve never seen a kid score like she (Samuelson) can from perimeter with her size. It’s going to be a long time before we see someone like her come around again, if it ever happens.”
Kiernan called Samuelson’s senior campaign the greatest offensive performance he has ever seen. She averaged a hair shy of 30 points a game, breaking her own school record for scoring average, while also setting new marks for most points in a game (42, against Palisades) and most 3-pointers made in a season (117).
Mater Dei played some of the nation’s top teams during the season, and all of them designed game plans to stop Samuelson, who faced double- and triple-teams with regularity.
“I told her she’s going to have more open shots next year at UConn than she did all this year,” Kiernan laughed. “Every defense we saw ganged up on her. We’re playing nationally ranked teams that’re making her work hard to get her shots, and she’s still going out there and putting up 30.”
After scoring 33 points in a highly anticipated matchup with Brea Olinda in the postseason, Ladycats coach Jeff Sink said Samuelson was the best high school girls basketball player he’d seen since Diana Taurasi.
Samuelson is following the same path as Taurasi, who, before becoming a star in the WNBA, played at UConn for Coach Geno Auriemma.
What does Auriemma see when he compares Samuelson to Taurasi?
“They are both really, really hard to play against,” Auriemma said in an email. “They are both unselfish, great teammates and great scorers. They just come at it from a different perspective because they play different positions. But in terms of how they love the game and love to compete and rise to the occasion, I would say the two of them are very similar.”
For the past four years, Samuelson demonstrated she is a rare talent, but her teams didn’t always reach the top. It’s one the area that critics point to when looking at Samuelson’s resume.
Samuelson led the Monarchs to the Southern California Regional Open Division title this season, and she says she is proud of what she accomplished in a Mater Dei uniform.
“It’s tough we didn’t end the season how we wanted (with a state title), but overall, I can look back at my high school career and be completely satisfied,” Samuelson said. “I think I’ve accomplished everything I’ve wanted to do, and I’ve had fun doing it, which is the most important part.”
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