By Carl Adamec
Katie Lou Samuelson learned a painful lesson on the final night of USA Basketball’s U-17 national team trials last month.
The 6-foot-3 wing from Huntington Beach, Calif., didn’t have her ankles taped as she usually does prior to the May 25 night session at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. While going for a loose ball, Samuelson stepped on a teammate’s foot and hurt her left ankle. An MRI showed no major damage but the injury forced her to miss the U-18 3×3 national tournament.
Fortunately for the University of Connecticut commit and the top-ranked player in the Class of 2015, two weeks of rest and rehabilitation allowed her to be ready for the U-17 training camp that began last Thursday at the USOTC.
“I haven’t had any problems,” Samuelson said Tuesday. “I get it taped up a little extra now and that allows me to keep going.”
Team USA wraps up camp in Colorado Springs Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the American contingent heads to France for exhibition games against China on Friday, Canada on Saturday, and France on Sunday. After a tour of Paris on Monday, Team USA moves on to Pilsen, Czech Republic, for the 2014 FIBA U-17 world championships that run June 28-July 6.
Samuelson was a member of USA Basketball’s U-16 national team a year ago and set Team USA U-16 records for 3-pointers made and percentage by going 8-for-8 from behind the arc in the FIBA Americas tournament gold-medal game win over Canada. In the tourney that qualified Team USA for the world championships, she averaged 16.0 points and 5.6 rebounds.
Training camp has allowed the team to begin build chemistry that it will need to defend its U-17 gold medal.
“We’ve been having two-a-days and it’s definitely been tough,” Samuelson said. “We’ve been working hard and working to play as a team. I think it’s going really well but I think we’re looking forward to leaving tomorrow.”
USA Basketball announced Tuesday that Sabrina Ionescu, a 5-11 guard, would replace Te’a Cooper on the roster. Cooper is no longer able to participate due to illness.
Five of the 12 players on the U-17 roster were not on the 2013 U-16 team.
“It’s been different but it’s a good different,” Samuelson said. “You always enjoy playing with different people and then coming together as a team.”
While the five days of camp have been productive, there’s still work to be done.
After arriving in the Czech Republic, there will be three more days of practice before Team USA begins Group D pool play against China on June 28.
“We have to share the ball more,” Samuelson said. “There have been times that things will break down and we’ll go one on one. We know that we have to play together and trust each other.
“And we do have to play solid defensively. We have to be able to lock teams down.”
It will be Samuelson’s first trip to Europe. In August, she will go to Nanjing, China, with fellow UConn commits De’Janae Boykin and Napheesa Collier and also Arike Ogunbowale to take part in the U-18 3×3 competition at the Youth Olympic Games.
While the experiences should be memorable, she’ll never forget to have her ankles taped before she plays.
“Lesson learned,” she said with a laugh.