by Jessica Hunt
[originally posted on ncaa.com]
As a freshman, Stanford guard Karlie Samuelson had the opportunity to play on a team with older sister, Bonnie. With one more victory, she has the chance compete against her younger sister, UConn star Katie Lou Samuelson.
The journey for these sisters began years ago in countless pickup games and shooting drills with their father Jon, a former member of the Cal State Fullerton basketball team.
“Back in the day, it would get ugly,” Karlie says of those one-on-one sessions that often led to fighting or parental intervention.
Fast forward, now UConn sophomore guard Katie Lou was named to the Associated Press All-America first team, an honor in which Karlie feels she played an integral role. “Bonnie and I will take the credit for her being so good,” she says, “we never went easy on her.”
The former sibling rivals have developed a bond like teammates, even though they play on different teams and coasts. Karlie has become one of Katie Lou’s biggest fans, watching all her games so she can provide feedback.
“She goes back and tells me when she thinks I can work harder, when she thinks I should dive on more loose balls,” Lou says. “She’s been really helpful to me this whole year…She dives on the floor, she does all the hustle plays, she’s kind of been an inspiration for me and I do want to play more like her.”
Karlie has watched Lou grow up as a person since going to college, and admires her sister’s versatility and selflessness as a player.
“She hasn’t lost a game yet in her college career so I’m proud of her.”
Now the Samuelson sisters have an opportunity to play on the same day, in the same venue, at the end of March – something they discussed before either had even enrolled in college. Karlie and Katie Lou have never faced each other in their collegiate careers, yet that could change if both teams advance past Friday’s semifinal games.
“We definitely were kind of hoping for being in the same region and then it didn’t happen so…watching their last game was awesome and it was an awesome feeling to know that she [Karlie] was coming here to the Final Four,” says Katie Lou. “Being able to spend time with her yesterday and hopefully sometime today has been really good, and it’s been more time than I’ve ever spent with her while we’ve been in season.”
Both sisters have enjoyed the Final Four so far, and have bonded over their shared experiences. Friday evening, Karlie and Stanford will face South Carolina in the first semifinal game before Katie Lou’s Huskies meet Mississippi State in the second national semifinal. If both Samuelsons win, they will not only be competing for the NCAA national championship on Sunday night, but also for family bragging rights – not unlike the ones they sought many years ago.