“Hey, You’re Good” — Karlie Samuelson Provides a Bright Spark this Season

Karlie Samuelson’s rise with the Los Angeles Sparks has been nothing short of spectacular. Currently leading the league in three-point percentage at 51 percent, per Basketball Reference, also a career high, Samuelson has shown the Sparks to be brilliant in signing her to a rest-of-season contract. 

For the six-foot guard out of Stanford, the journey here wasn’t easy, and her impressive three-point shooting didn’t happen overnight. After having a stellar college career, the Southern California native went undrafted in 2017 and started her career overseas in Italy. Unfortunately, her time there was cut short due to injuries and personal reasons, but coming into 2018, she signed a contract with the Los Angeles Sparks.

She appeared in 20 games as a member of the Sparks, shooting 31.3 percent from deep. Since then, her three-point percentage has continuously trended upward by over 20 percent. During that time, she had multiple stints in the W and overseas, including playing for the Sparks alongside her sister, Katie Lou Samuelson. Domestically, she played for the Dallas Wings, Seattle Storm, Phoenix Mercury, and multiple times with the Sparks. She played overseas in Spain, Italy, and Australia, where she saw continued success and growth from beyond the arc. This includes an impressive 2022-2023 season with the Townsville Fire of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) in Australia, where Samuelson shot 47 percent from three, according to the team’s website

Coming back to the States, her relationship with the Sparks has been an interesting one—she has been waived by the team three times, once late in the 2018 season, and again in 2021 and 2023. 

I talked with Samuelson after the Sparks win over the Wings on June 25 about being waived multiple times and how she mentally got through it.

“I think that’s a big topic because a lot of people go through it,” Samuelson said. “Most people are waived because there’s not that many spots in the league. So I’ve been through it quite a bit. I’ve been very crushed sometimes. 

“I’m confident at this point in my career and who I am. Making the WNBA doesn’t define me as a player or a person, but I know that I’ve struggled in the past with losing that confidence. I think I really relate to players that have to go through it. You get picked up, you play a lot of minutes, you contribute, and you don’t know how long you’re going to be here—that’s really hard mentally.” 

Samuelson has continuously carried this attitude, especially coming into the 2023 season. For a team like the Sparks, who struggled with three-point shooting in the past—they were dead last in the league in 2022, per Basketball Reference—Samuelson has been a bright spot. 

Samuelson is able to provide that relief for newly-hired head coach Curt Miller’s squad, and she credits her ability to be in spring training camp as a difference in her preparation for this season. 

“This is the first season I’ve got to be in a spring camp in a long time,” she said in an interview on June 25. “I was overseas for three years before this, so it’s nice to be with the team from the start. I was cut for a second there, but I got to do the whole camp, and I got to learn Curt’s system. I’ve played with Nneka [Ogwumike], Chiney [Ogwumike], Jordin [Canada], and all these players before. It’s a feel thing, and it’s a confidence thing too. We had a flow, for sure.” 

Having that past experience with the team served Samuelson well, as she shot 61 percent from three in her first five games this season then signed a rest-of-season contract on June 6. 

Samuelson told me how gratifying it was to sign that contract after all that she has been through.

“I got called down to the lobby by Curt and Katie, and it was one of the first good results with one of those kinds of meetings that I’ve ever had,” she said. “So, I just felt really good when I was playing on the hardship. I was just enjoying it, to be honest with you, and I think that’s why I ended up playing well. I feel good, and I’m trying to accept things as they go and enjoy the moment. I think that’s why I’m seeing success.”

Building on this, what has been impactful for Samuleson is having her sister around. This isn’t the first time these two have been on a squad together, as they both played for Avenida, a professional team in Spain, and the Storm. The 2023 season looks a little different for Katie Lou Samuelson, as she is out due to pregnancy, but Karlie noted that her sister has been a support for her. 

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“It’s so awesome. She is calm, collected, and can tell me, hey, you’re good, like, don’t worry about anything,” Samuelson said. “She just helps so much. It’s like Nneka and Chiney having each other, and you have someone that has your back and can support you through anything.” 

According to Basketball Reference, Samuleson currently sits at 74 percent, number one in the league for true three-point shooting percentage.

She credits her stellar three-point shooting so far this season to her teammates and new head coach. 

“Nneka and Jordin are having an unbelievable season. It’s credit to them and the players I’m playing with,” she said. “Then, Curt just puts us in good positions, and I need to stay ready. In some games, [my shots]fall, some they don’t. I like to help my team in that way; I think it’s great.”

Samuelson has cemented her place with the Sparks as a reliable three-point shooter and fantastic teammate. Looking forward, her rise has all the potential to continue.  

 

All stats as of 7/4/2023 and courtesy of ESPN, Basketball Reference, and Los Angeles Sparks PR.

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