Katie Lou Samuelson Excited to Return to 3x3 on its Biggest Stage to Date
Katie Lou Samuelson hasn’t played 3x3 basketball in a formal, competitive situation in more than six years.
Still, she seemed like the logical choice to fill a role on the USA Basketball Women’s 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Team. After all, she does have three gold medals in the discipline, which makes its Olympic debut this summer in Tokyo.
Samuelson joins Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray and Kelsey Plum on the USA team that will have two training camps before participating in the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament on May 26-30 in Graz, Austria. The Americans need to finish in the top three in the 20-team field in order to punch their ticket to Tokyo.
“It’s really, it’s really great to just be able to compete for this and then for me to be able to have a chance to play 3x3 again,” Samuelson said. “I’m super excited just have the chance to maybe qualify for the Olympics for Team USA.”
Samuelson, who will be playing for her third WNBA team in as many seasons after being traded from the Dallas Wings to the Seattle Storm, currently is wrapping up EuroLeague play with Perfumerias Avenida and is in a playoff bubble. The Spanish team went 27-1 and she averaged 18.8 points per game this season. In addition to performing at a high level, Samuelson also is getting a chance to play alongside one of her two older sisters, Karlie, who played at Stanford.
“We haven’t played together since we were in high school, so it’s been a lot of fun,” said Samuelson, who grew up in Huntington Beach, California.
The former Connecticut star and two-time All-American hasn’t played 3x3 since winning a gold medal at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. But her experience with USA Basketball and international competition makes her a great fit for the U.S. as it tries to qualify for Tokyo. In addition to sporting a 37-1 career record with USA Basketball, Samuelson recently was in the Women’s National Team training camp in February and played on the WNT tour in 2020 before the pandemic shut down competition.
“It’s hard, with our schedule just being so back-to-back, I’m not going to get specific 3x3 training until we get back together before the qualifying tournament,” Samuelson said. “But I just make sure I stay in shape, staying on top of everything.”
The U.S. is in a challenging Group A for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. France is the reigning FIBA European champion, while Germany, Uruguay and Indonesia round out the group. The Americans need a top-two finish in Group A to advance, then a quarterfinal and either a semifinal or third-place game victory to make it to Tokyo.
Samuelson’s international experience figures to be a big asset for the U.S.
“I think just being in USA Basketball’s system and how they have shown how we have to carry ourselves and act,” Samuelson said. “(Also) being used to going quickly to a different time zone and having to adjust and be able to play your top basketball, I’ve had experience doing that, so I think that’ll definitely help.”
While there is a different pace going from five-on-five to 3x3, the two disciplines have similarities in the style of play.
“It’s definitely a higher physicality level,” Samuelson said. “There’s a lot of teams that are older, there’s a lot of teams that have been playing together for a lot longer. We tend to get together in shorter amounts of time instead of having long training camps or long months to get ready for tournaments, so I think that’s the main difference.”
Another reason for Samuelson being a good choice to play with Dolson, Gray and Plum is her high basketball IQ.
“I think (my game) fits pretty well,” Samuelson said. “I’m able to play in versatile positions. I think I can play defense on both guards and bigs so that helps a lot with 3x3 because there’s a lot of switching. It’s only 12 seconds each possession so you can’t match up every single time.”
This could be a banner summer for USA Basketball. The men’s and women’s national teams are heavy favorites for five-on-five golds, and the 3x3 teams will be looking to make history by claiming the discipline’s inaugural gold medals.
“I think it’s really cool,” Samuelson said of 3x3 joining the Olympic events roster. “I think 3x3 is such an entertaining and high-atmosphere, high-energy game, and I think it’s going to be really cool to have it incorporated into the Olympics.”