Video: Katie Lou Samuelson - McDonald's All-American
See Katie Lou Samuelson at work during McDonald's All-American game practice
As Johnny Cash made known, it's not easy being a boy named Sue. Likewise, it can't be easy being a girl named Lou, but frankly that's how Katie Lou Samuelson
likes to be known.
Her full and God-given name is Katie Lou, an offshoot from her grandmother Mary Lou, according to Samuelson's mother Karen.
"She prefers Lou to Katie Lou," Karen said. "Especially to those she's closest to. We all call her Lou."
One thing Samuelson is very uncomfortable being called is the nation's best girls basketball player. The 6-foot-3 guard from Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
has been hearing that for years now and is the consensus No. 1 senior recruit.
It's one thing to have recruiting experts make such a claim, but in the last two weeks, Samuelson has earned the National Player of the Year awards by Morgan Wootten in conjunction with the McDonald's All-American Game, and Gatorade.
All of it has left the bashful 17-year-old blushing heading into Wednesday's 14th-annual McDonald's All-American Games.
"It's very, very humbling," she said Friday on her way to the California State Open Division championship game. "There are so many deserving players who could have easily been picked. To be chosen out of all of them is truly an honor."
It's no line, says her mom and coaches.
In fact, beyond the mountain of accomplishments for her daughter (the weighted 4.26 grade point average, the 30.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, the numerous community service projects she partakes in), mom said the thing she's most proud of concerning her daughter is her human nature.
"The biggest compliment I hear about Lou is about that humility," Karen said. "And the fact she gives backs to other kids. What kind of person she is, is much more important than what kind of players she is."
But as a high school player, she's sort of off the chart.
She's got unlimited shooting range, can handle the ball, is a strong rebounder and inside player, and she always makes the extra pass to open teammates.
It's why she's been all over the world playing basketball before even becoming an adult.
With USA Basketball, she's been to Indonesia, the Czech Republic, France, Mexico and South Korea.
"It's awesome," she said. "I've traveled to some of the coolest places in the world."
Her sense of adventure and not run with the pack may be why she chose college across country at the University of Connecticut instead of joining her basketball playing sisters Bonnie, a 6-3 senior, and Karlie, a 6-foot sophomore, at Stanford.
The three were inseparable growing up and playing one-on-one-on-one in the back yard. Samuelson would attend her sister's practices and she always wanted to play against her sisters and their peers.
"I learned everything from my sisters," Samuelson said. "They, of course, only made me better."
All played at advanced levels, but it was clear by the seventh and eighth grade, that Katie Lou — make that Lou — was the special talent. Her sisters knew it. The family knew it. Their AAU coach Russ Davis, of the Cal Swish, told their mom that.
Davis told the New Haven Register that Samuelson "is the best player I've ever had, best all-around player. She has a chance to do some crazy stuff over (at Connecticut). … People always talk about her shooting because it is just ridiculous. But she can get to the basket, she can rebound, she can block shots, she can post up."
Picking UConn over Stanford wasn't easy. She'll actually follow in the footsteps of former Mater Dei standout and MaxPreps National Player of the Year Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who just broke the NCAA record for career 3-pointers.
"My sisters understood," Samuelson said. "They wanted me to take my time and go to the place best for me. … Connecticut is definitely going to be different than Southern California."
Samuelson has always been her own person, her mother said, competitive but extremely funny and light-hearted.
"She does impersonations," Karen said. "Anyone she's around enough, she'll imitate."
But it's quite clear few can imitate Samuelson on the court. She'll compete Wednesday against the best 23 other seniors in the country at the United Center.
Samuelson said she can't wait. She might be a little more inspired to end on a winning note after her seventh-ranked Mater Dei team lost 75-69 to No. 3 St. Mary's-Stockton in the California Open Division state championship on Saturday.
It was one of the greatest girls games in state history, many believe. With "only" 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists, Samuelson didn't think she played very well. She'll likely come out aggressive for the West squad Wednesday.
"I'm really excited," she said. "Just to be picked among the best with so many talented players is awesome."
Video: Katie Lou Samuelson - Nation's No. 1 Player
See Samuelson playing for Mater Dei