NANJING, China -- Practice makes perfect.
While everyone else was watching the spectacle of the men’s dunking contest, Team USA’s Katie Lou Samuelson was warming up for the final of the women’s shootout on the opposite court with head coach Dori Oldaker. After finishing fourth in the semifinals, Samuelson knew she would be up first and wanted to be ready.
“That’s just the kind of kid she is," said Oldaker. “She’s just so excited to be here and cannot wait to go play.”
After years of perfecting her outside shot, the extra practice rounds paid off as Samuelson captured the bronze medal in the women’s shootout final at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.
When asked what it would take to win a medal in the shootout contest, Samuelson said it would come down to her performance from the right wing.
“That’s my sweet spot,” she said. “So, now that I said that I better make it!”
The 6-foot-3 sharpshooter made good on her word. After getting off to a slow start with four missed opportunities, Samuelson started to find her rhythm from the top of the key, connecting on her fifth and sixth shots. When it came time for the third transition to the right wing, she was ready, finding the net on her last two tries.
Her four points would prove to be enough to tie with Slovenia’s Ela Micunovic, who edged Samuelson for the silver medal after completing the four-round shootout in a faster time. Lucia Togores Carpintero of Spain claimed the gold medal with seven points, firing a half-court shot to secure the win in the final seconds.
“I was hoping I could have gotten one of those half-court shots, but I’m still happy with the end result,” said Samuelson. “I had so much fun and the atmosphere was great. Being able to add a medal on top of that feels amazing.”
Although the right wing may be Samuelson’s sweet spot, her all-around outside shooting ability is what has distinguished the California native as the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2015 by ESPN.
Samuelson – who verbally committed to play for the University of Connecticut in May – showcased her talent at the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Cancun, Mexico, lifting the U.S. to the gold medal by going 8-for-8 from behind the arc in the final. Posting 18 3-pointers in five games, she set two American U16 records for 3-pointers made and 3-point shooting percentage (.529).
Like any true competitor, Samuelson had high expectations going into the shootout competition; but no matter what the outcome, the Youth Olympian reminded herself to take it all in.
“I wasn’t trying to put too much pressure on myself,” said Samuelson. “Tonight was about going out there and having fun, but tomorrow is all serious. I am so excited to get back out there on the court with my teammates.”
The U.S. women will resume team competition Friday (Aug. 22) against Belgium, which like the U.S., is also undefeated in preliminary-round play.
“The ultimate goal is to win gold in the 3-on-3,” Samuelson added. “We need to keep playing strong and I think we can get it, but we know that anyone can take it from us, so we have to be ready.”