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June 24, 2013

Samuelson Sister Act

It's been said during the broadcast of many basketball games after a player has drained a momentum-changing three-point shot that he or she has delivered a "dagger."

If that's true, 2013 Stanford women's basketball signee Karlie Samuelson has become proficient in killing the hopes of her opposition.

That aspect of her skill set will not be a shock to Stanford fans who have already seen a Samuelson sharpshooter on the roster. There was a time when Karlie and Bonnie Samuelson, Karlie's older sister, were terrorizing teams together.

The reunion is highly anticipated.

"I am looking forward to it," Samuelson said. "I've played with my little sister [highly regarded 2015 recruit Katie Lou Samuelson] my last two years. Now I'm used to my little sister. I am excited to play with Bonnie again. It's funny going from the little sister to the big sister again. Now I'm the little sister."

Opposing teams won't be caught flatfooted by what the latest Samuelson can do. The scouting report for all of them includes the same elite skill.

"I'm a shooter, like my sister and my other sister," Samuelson said. "I'm more of a 'two' guard, but in high school I played point guard. I think I'm a pretty good passer, because I've always played with my sisters and tried to get them shots. I just try to hit my own threes. That's what my sisters and I practice with my dad."

That shooting skill is easy to focus on because their accuracy has proven to be award worthy. However, to ignore the rest of her skills would be a disservice to Stanford's incoming shooting guard.

"Especially this year in close games, when we're not hitting shots, I drive to the basket" Samuelson said. "When I'm not hitting I go to the basket."

Mater Dei High School is a prestigious program that plays against top competition and there were plenty of close games in which Samuelson shined.

"The book is out to crowd the three point shot," said her coach Kevin Kiernan. "She knew she had to drive. She is a great driver. She has a nice spin move. She is not just a three point shooter. She can pull up and shoot, she's an amazing free throw shooter and she can drive. She's not going to stand around the arc and just shoot threes. She's always driving and getting fouled. She's on the floor a lot. She's a gritty player."

Getting fouled is good when you're capable of winning a national free throw contest twice before you're even in high school.

"There's no pressure situation for them to shoot free throws," said her father Jon Samuelson. "There's no secret to it. They practice a lot and gradually became better shooters. They work very hard at it. They like practicing together so that was a plus. It became a family activity."

It's reasonable to expect some shared qualities on and off the court amongst sisters who spend so much time together practicing a craft.

"Karlie is really hardnosed and stubborn," Jon Samuelson said. "She brings a real fight to whatever she does. She has a lot of the same qualities as Bonnie. She's a little smaller, more of a guard than a wing. I just want her to have a great time."

Fans may notice a theme developing in how coaches are describing the incoming class: grit, a willingness to give up their bodies, and a great work ethic leading to full stat sheets. It's tough to say goodbye to a player like that.

"We wish she was a junior," Kiernan said. "It was such a great year having her. She's a pleasure to coach. She's a great student. She represents her team and her school really well. We're going to miss her a lot. Stanford's getting a great person.

"She's one of the best three-point shooters we've ever seen. She makes big shots under pressure with hands in her face. She handles the ball well. She's a good rebounder. She improved her defense since she was here and that's what she needs to keep doing. She's a good athlete but she's not an elite athlete. But she's really smart and she's going to find a way to get on the court."

High praise from a man with several "national championships" on his resume and was the national coach of the year in 2011.

Kiernan may be disappointed to lose a basketball player but he knew the best fit for Samuelson was Stanford's academics.

"It comes down to one thing with Karlie and Bonnie," Kiernan said. "Stanford is a good fit no matter what happens on the court. For Karlie it was a no brainer to go to Stanford. If they feel they want me, I'm gone. I'm there. They'll do what they have to do to make that work."

It's always a question for a developing player if the program they like will want them. Samuelson, for instance, was a Stanford fan long before she was a recruit.

"Whenever Bonnie went to visits I would go with her too. I'd been up there a lot. It was really fun. I feel pretty cool that I get to say I'm going to Stanford," Samuelson said. "It's going be a good feeling being there instead of watching them."

Did any game stand out?

"That game when they were playing Xavier and Jeanette Pohlen went down the court," Samuelson said. "That was crazy. I was running around my house."

Many Stanford fans were doing the same. Now the girl who celebrated Stanford success will put on the same uniform Pohlen wore to help the team deliver more memories of joyous delirium.

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