PHILADELPHIA - Katie Lou Samuelson could not have been better in her last game against an American Athletic Conference opponent. She scored 40 points on a NCAA-record 10-for-10 effort from 3-point land in the UConn women’s basketball team’s victory over South Florida in the AAC Tournament final at Mohegan Sun Arena.
For at least one league coach, though, it wasn’t good enough.
After being named a unanimous first-team all-league pick and the AAC’s Co-Player of the Year, the AAC Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and a consensus first-team All-American last March, Samuelson was named to the 2017-18 preseason first team by league coaches.
But unlike teammates and fellow All-Americans Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier, Samuelson was not a unanimous choice.
“I don’t know why. I don’t know,” Collier said with a shake of the head. “I was really surprised by that, too.”
The coaches’ individual ballots are not made public.
Samuelson is coming off one of the best sophomore seasons in UConn history. She averaged 20.2 points and reached the 1,000-point plateau for her career, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 37 games.
She was second in the league in scoring, 11th in assists, and seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio. She and teammate Kia Nurse were the only players to rank in the top 10 in the league in field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, and 3-point shooting percentage. Last month, she was the youngest player and one of five collegians to take part in a United States senior national team camp in California.
Who knew she got worse in the last seven months?
“I got a little better, actually,” Samuelson said with a smile after noting she’s been spending quality time on the practice court with coach Geno Auriemma and assistant Shea Ralph. “I’m working on trying to play through anything and finding different ways to get open so people can’t take me out of the game. I’ve been finishing a lot better and attacking the basket a lot harder.”
Expanding her game a year ago was what helped her earn All-America status and that continues to be a work in the progress as the Huskies work toward their season opener Nov. 12 against Stanford at the Countdown to Columbus at Nationwide Arena.
Joining the UConn trio on the first team were Central Florida senior guard Aliyah Gregory and USF junior guard Kitija Laksa. Collier, who was the Co-Player of the Year with Samuelson a season ago, was named the preseason Player of the Year.
“Obviously it’s a great honor that people think that of me,” Collier said. “But the season hasn’t even started yet so I don’t know how much of an affect it will have with anything for me. I’m going to work as hard as I always have.”
The Huskies were the unanimous No. 1 pick by the coaches. But that unanimous vote was not what Auriemma was interested in.
“We have four starters back from the team that won it so I’d like to think most reasonable people in our league would vote for us to be preseason No. 1,” Auriemma said. “Not that we have a lot of reasonable coaches in our league because not everybody voted for Lou for first team all-league. I guess you have to do something better than be Co-Player of the Year the year before to have everyone vote for you first team.”
Samuelson is already motivated by the Huskies’ loss to Mississippi State in last season’s NCAA Final Four semifinals that ended UConn’s 111-game winning streak and its four-year reign as national champion. Monday’s results have added a little fuel to her fire.
“I would say so,” Samuelson said. “But the biggest thing for me, especially for me, is that I’m concerned about winning. With the way that last season ended for us, we want to win and get the job done. I’ll do whatever I have to do every single game to help us accomplish that. I’m going to go out there and play to the best of my ability. If that means I’m still not unanimous first team, that’s OK. As long as I’m playing my best and I’m helping us win games, that’s enough for me.”