UNCASVILLE, Conn. — It has been a process for Katie Lou Samuelson. Former UConn Huskies often reach stardom in the WNBA, but it doesn't necessarily come overnight.
"It's just time," Chicago Sky coach James Wade said before Samuelson's first game back in Connecticut as a pro, against the Sun on Tuesday night. "We have a deep roster, it's going to take her a little time for her to get situated in the league. And we knew that. The injury she had set her back, we're just trying to get her back to where she was before that."
Samuelson, who fought through and back from several injuries during her career at UConn, fractured her right wrist in early June, landing on the hand after taking a charge, and missed about six weeks. But, characteristically, she did what she had to do methodically, and kept her spirits up.
"It can always be worse," she said, "so I had to keep myself motivated."
During her recovery, Samuelson spent as much time as she could on the court, even while she was wearing a cast. "I was really proud of the way she handled it," said Stefanie Dolson, one of three former Huskies playing for the Sky (11-9).
"It's very rare that you see someone put in a difficult situation have such a positive attitude," Wade said, "and still remain humble and a hard worker."
Samuelson, who returned to action July 21, got into the game against the Sun for a little over eight minutes, scoring six points. After hitting a 3-pointer, she fouled former teammate Morgan Tuck at the other end of the floor. She's been playing against former teammates, like her close friend Napheesa Collier, a rookie who represented the Lynx in the All-Game.
But Samuelson can look around her own locker room for shared experiences, to Dolson and Gabby Williams, in her second season in the league, and playing a little of virtually every position for Chicago.
"Discipline," Wade said. "(UConn players) buy in quickly. They're winners. They're automatically winners. They try to find solutions. They're good at talking and getting through stuff. I just like the way they communicate, the way they come in and work and they don't take plays off. That's something every coach values, and I value from all three."
Dolson, 27, averaging 9.2 points and 6.0 rebounds, is the veteran of the group, in her sixth WNBA season, third with the Sky. She had eight points and 10 rebounds in the Sky's 100-94 loss to Connecticut.
"It's nice, because my first year at Chicago, there were no UConn players," Dolson said, "and a lot of people say, there is usually a UConn player on every team. Now to have three, it's been nice. I try to help them through their struggles."
Williams, 22, didn't make the trip to Connecticut due to an undisclosed illness, according to the Sky. Wade raves about her development, as she takes on more time at point guard.
"She's one of our valuable pieces," Wade said, "because we can put here in a little bit everywhere. We like her at the point guard spot because we see her as a pseudo Russell Westbrook, Draymond Green. We also like her at the four and at the two. At the guard spot she can switch on bigger players and defend. She's actually our best pick and roll defender. She's just so valuable. The thing about how humble she is, is that she doesn't know how valuable she is. She probably doesn't see some of the things we see."
Williams is averaging 16 minutes, 6.1 points, 2.0 assists and 1.9 rebounds.
"She's a smart player," Wade said, "but more than being smart she has really natural instincts and we want her to trust those. She's playing winning basketball. Her trust in her instincts is going to be a key."
Samuelson, 22, like Williams, was the No.4 pick in the draft. In the six games she has played, she's averaged 9.5 minutes, 2.7 points, shooting 40% from the floor. Dolson said the toughest adjustment for a rookie is stepping up to the physical nature of the league; Samuelson is working on that part of her game, along with the grind of the professional life.
"I'm just figuring out how to get that first push," Samuelson said. "For me, it's becoming more physical in the post, playing that four (spot). … It's a whole 180 (from college). It's different, but it's part of the job, it is a job and you do what you need to do."
©2019 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194):