One of the busiest members of the U.S. national women’s basketball team is Katie Lou Samuelson.
After wrapping up the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia, on Sunday, the 22-year-old swing player is going right back to work in the 3-by-3 national team camp in Chicago this week.
“It was awesome to compete against some of the teams competing in the Olympics,” Samuelson told High Post Hoops about her experience in Belgrade. “I did some good training and fitting in different positions and roles when needed.”
The Americans, who had already clinched a spot in the Tokyo Olympics by virtue of winning the 2018 World Cup, rolled past Serbia and Mozambique on Thursday and Saturday, 88-69 and 124-49, before a tight conclusive game with Nigeria on Sunday that resulted in a 76-71 win. Samuelson, who is in contention for a roster spot, scored 10 points in both the wins over Mozambique and Nigeria.
“With Team USA, everyone is exceptional,” she added. “When you come in and help, you try to fill in different positions.”
Although more people will be more familiar with the traditional national team, Samuelson is also vying for a spot on the 3-by-3 national team, which will debut as a medal sport in Tokyo. She is headed to the training camp in Chicago immediately, where she is hoping to be one of four selected from a group of 11 that will compete from March 18-22 at the Olympic qualifier in Bengalaru, India. Eight teams will compose the field for the Olympics, and the U.S.’s qualifying group boasts France, Germany, Uruguay, and Indonesia.
“They do a good job of the camps not overlapping,” Samuelson added, “so these next couple of days, I will still get that opportunity. It’s a lot of fun, a great atmosphere, and everyone needs to contribute, you can’t hide.”
“Whatever opportunity presents itself,” she said, “I hope I can get that chance.”
The competition in Serbia was also special for Samuelson because her sister, Karlie, plays for the British national team. Great Britain’s qualifying tournament was relocated from Foshan, China, to Belgrade due to the coronavirus, although it placed last in it and will not be playing forward.
“I hadn’t seen her since the beginning of August,” Katie Lou said of Karlie, “so it was nice to get to see her.”
Katie Lou also mentioned that her parents did not make the trip to Serbia to see the games.
Success with the national team is nothing new to Samuelson. Before she won a national title as a freshman at UConn in 2016, she was a gold medalist at both the Youth Olympic Games and Under-17 World Championship in 2014. In 2013 alone, the high schooler won the FIBA Americas Under-16 title, the 3-by-3 Under-18 World Cup, and the 3-by-3 Under-18 Americas gold medal. She was also on the team that won the FIBA AmeriCup in September at Puerto Rico.
“It’s amazing to get the chance to represent the USA,” Samuelson said. “I have been playing with them since I was 15, and it’s a blessing to represent your country.”
In addition to the U.S. and Japan, the 10 teams that qualified for the Olympics this weekend were Canada, France and China (all 3-0); Australia, Belgium, Spain, and Serbia (2-1 record); and Korea, Puerto Rico and Nigeria (1-2). Eight of the teams played in Rio 2016, while Belgium and Puerto Rico are debutants. Korea is making its first appearance since Beijing 2008, and Nigeria returns for the first time since Athens 2004.
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