O.C. Girls Athlete of the Year: Katie Lou Samuelson, Mater Dei

By year’s end, the medical tape wrapped around her left elbow and the brace supporting her right knee had become just as essential to Katie Lou Samuelson’s game day attire as the scarlet jerseys and grey Nikes.

Double-teams became the norm. Triple-teams weren’t uncommon, nor were jabs from the elbows of her opponents.

The bruises and nicks compiled throughout the course of the year, but so too did the points and the wins.

It didn’t matter who or how many defenders guarded Mater Dei’s 6-foot-3 sharpshooter with out-of-the-gym-type range this season, as she turned in what has been referred to as the best offensive campaign in Orange County history.

The space in the trophy case at the Samuelson household continues to dwindle as Katie Lou Samuelson has been selected the Register’s Orange County Female Athlete of the Year.

“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 at the conclusion of the Monarchs season. “I think I’ve accomplished everything I’ve wanted to do, and I’ve had fun doing it, which is the most important part.”

Lou – as she’s referred to by her teammates and friends – averaged a hair shy of 30 points and nine rebounds a night in her senior season. The Monarchs finished the year with a 31-3 record, a CIF Regional championship and a runner-up finish in the state’s Open Division.

Samuelson set school marks for scoring average (29.2), points in a game (42), 3-pointers made in a game (10) and a season (117), accomplishing all of it against some of the nation’s top competition.

Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan called Samuelson the “best offensive player the county’s ever seen” and Brea Olinda coach Jeff Sink added she’s the best high school player he’s seen since Diana Taurasi.

Samuelson collected her third consecutive Orange County player of the year award. Gatorade, USA Today, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, the Naismith and the Morgan Wootten foundations all named Mater Dei’s senior wing as the national player of the year.

“I think the most impressive thing about Lou and the incredible year she had was how dominant and consistent she was all year,” Kiernan said. “She took a pretty young team to a national level. She consistently dominated games against double- and triple-teams against great competition. She played against the best in the O.C. and the best in the country.”

For the third consecutive summer, Samuelson will take her game to the world stage as she recently made USA Basketball’s U19 team that will compete in the FIBA World Championship for Women in Russia later this summer.

While capturing another gold medal is the current focus, adding a national championship to her resume will be the goal in a matter of months when Samuelson will report to Connecticut to start her collegiate career for the three-time defending national champs.

“We’ll see how quickly she adjusts to the college game and my guess is she will adjust pretty quickly,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said via email. “But she will go through the same growing pains that anyone else who has come to UConn go through. My guess is that she is a tough enough kid that she is going to work hard and is going to be the kind of impact player that she wants to be.”

Former Monarch standout Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis went on to have a marvelous career at UConn, winning three national titles and finishing as Division I’s all-time leader in made 3-pointers.

With Samuelson breaking most of Mosqueda-Lewis’ Mater Dei records in recent years, expectations will be high for the latest Monarch-turned-Husky.

As Kiernan joked, shots for Samuelson might be easier to come by in Storrs than they were in Santa Ana considering the talent she’s soon to be surrounded by.

It’s a reality that could give opposing defenses fits in the near future. Even when there were two or three defenders guarding her in high school, Samuelson’s shot found nylon more often than not.

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