Katie Lou Samuelson is The Times' girls' basketball player of the year

Eric Sondheimer
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The Times names Katie Lou Samuelson of Santa Ana Mater Dei as girls basketball player of the year

There are good shooters in high school basketball, and then there's Katie Lou Samuelson of Santa Ana Mater Dei. She set the standard for excellence in girls' basketball in Southern California.

She averaged 29.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, made 115 three-pointers and shot 41% from three-point range.

When people say "practice makes perfect," Samuelson should come to mind, because she perfected her shot by practicing over and over with her father, Jon, growing up.

Samuelson has been named The Times' player of the year in girls' basketball.

Mater Dei finished 31-3 and lost to Stockton St. Mary's in the CIF State Open Division championship game on March 28.

That defeat hardly diminishes the season and career of Samuelson, who was named the Gatorade national player of the year and is headed to Connecticut.

"I've had a good career, especially at Mater Dei," she said. "I wouldn't be the player I am without the coaches I've played for and teammates I've played with. We've gotten closer every year . . . second in state is good. I'm not sure I would have been able to do that somewhere else."

The 6-foot-3 Samuelson was a target for opponents from beginning to end. They played her physical, employed double and triple teams, box-and-ones and every defense imaginable in an attempt to slow her down.

"She has such a great ability at her size to shoot from the perimeter with such a quick release," Coach Kevin Kiernan said. "It opens her ability to drive. It's really rare to see somebody who can shoot that well at that size, and she's incredibly competitive."

Samuelson's improvement over the years is a blueprint for others on how to keep progressing.

"I've really improved on being a better scorer in multiple ways," she said. "My outside shot is better. Also my defense, like footwork, positioning. Overall, I'm a lot quicker and stronger. As a sophomore, I was easy to push around. I don't get pushed around as much anymore."

Challenges, however, will be more formidable in college. She'll need to become stronger, wiser and even more determined.

And she knows that. It's what pushes her to keep practicing hour upon hour in the quest for perfection.


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