Despite everything, the 2020/21 season has been business as usual for Karlie Samuelson.
The guard is enjoying a special campaign domestically with her club, Perfumerías Avenida. The team are unbeaten in the Spanish top flight – boasting a record of 20-0 – and last week booked their place in the quarter-finals of EuroLeague.
“I love playing with this Avenida! We have a great group. We have so much fun on and off the court and compete every day. I am excited to see how the rest of season goes with EuroLeague and Spanish league playoffs.”
Togetherness and a strong team spirit have been key components of GB’s success in recent years. These traits have been prevalent at club level for Samuelson this season too, having had the opportunity to play alongside her sister, Katie Lou.
“Playing with my sister professionally has been a dream of ours for the past few years. I loved watching her play throughout college and to be able to play together for the first time since high school has been so much fun. We have a great connection and love spending time together. I am excited at how successful the team has been while being together.”
The 25-year-old returns to the GB team for the upcoming window, having missed out on November’s win over Poland. With such hot form domestically, Samuelson is hoping for more of the same when the game tips off on Thursday:
“I’m looking to just continue to play confidently going into the GB campaign. I would love to find a rhythm offensively and help us in any way win this game against Belarus. Watching the girls win big against Poland in November was awesome. I am definitely excited to be on the court with all of them this time.”
Once again the team are forced to travel to play in a bubble, with Riga the host city on this occasion. Despite the circumstances, nothing changes in terms of the focus for the team:
“The mindset is honestly the same as always: compete as hard as we can. It’s the GB way. We play for each other, unselfishly and with passion. This is when we are the most successful. And of course wearing our positive glasses!”
Opponents Belarus will play three games in four days during the window, with two games against Poland falling either side of Thursday’s clash. Despite the results potentially impacting qualification for GB, Karlie insists the team will solely be focused on themselves:
“The results of Belarus will not affect our efforts in the game at all. We are going to go out and play as hard as possible regardless of any outside factors.”
Having picked up 20 caps since her debut versus Portugal back in 2018, Samuelson is arguably one of the more experienced players within the squad. Having had a long list of role models to learn from herself, Karlie’s looking to help the younger players integrate into the squad whenever possible:
“I’ve learned a lot from from playing with GB legends like Joey, Stef, Azania, Rachel, and Chan. Whether they are currently with us on the court or not, they have a lasting effect on us as a team and the way we play. Chan is here for this window and Temi and Eilidh are great leaders as well. I’m looking to echo their leadership and just be a teammate to count on for the younger players.”
The team are set to arrive in Riga on Sunday for the beginning of camp, with the game live on YouTube the following Thursday. You can watch it live here from 11:30am.