With the WNBA season restarting after the Olympic break last weekend, LA Sparks and GB’s Karlie Samuelson speaks about her time in LA, learning from the wealth of experience in the Sparks roster and managing the emotions of professional sport.
As rosters in the WNBA are limited to just 12, competition for places in a league roster has never been higher. When the chance to join LA Sparks came, Karlie’s focus was on enjoying the opportunity whilst also demonstrating her ability to compete at the highest level:
“This season with LA has been a lot of fun. It’s always interesting to join a team temporarily at first and in the middle of a season. I have just been enjoying my time, taking advantage of the opportunities I get, and having fun.”
Back in June she recorded a WNBA career high 13 points as Sparks overcame Washington Mystics 89-82, shooting 100% from the field – including three three-pointers:
“That career high game was definitely something special for me. I know how hard I work and it’s nice to see the ball go in the basket at the right time.”
After the game Sparks’ Head Coach, Derek Fisher, was quoted describing Karlie as “everything that’s right about the game of basketball and team sports”. The statement is some well-earned recognition for her selfless style of play and team-first mindset – something which is clear to see at both domestic and international level.
Still just 26 years old, Karlie is developing every day alongside several of American basketball’s biggest names. The Sparks roster boasts WNBA champions, MVPs, World Cup winners and Olympians. With such a wealth of talent around her, every day is an opportunity to learn and improve:
“This team is full of talent! I’ve been learning a lot from everyone, staff and players. Coach Fisher has taught me a lot about what it takes to be a consistent leader through ups and downs. I’ve loved learning from Seimone [Augustus], Coach Fred [Williams], LT [Latricia Trammell], Nneka [Orwumike], and Erica [Wheeler] have been extremely welcoming and fun to get to know more.”
Over the last 18 months, basketball has proven to be a rollercoaster for Samuelson. The highs of domestic success in Spain with siter Katie-Lou and WBNA contracts have contrasted with the lows of a EuroLeague Final defeat and GB falling short in EuroBasket Women qualification.
One of the toughest defeats to take was missing out on a place at Tokyo 2020 after GB fell agonisingly short during the Olympic Qualifiers in Belgrade last February:
“The Olympic Qualifiers were definitely one of the most disappointing things I’ve dealt with in my career. Three points away from making the Olympics. It was a moment for me to learn how to process those losses, build my confidence back up, and move on. I’m proud we made it to the qualifiers, and I think it shows how far we can make it as a team. I’m excited for what’s to come with GB.”
For Samuelson every success, and every setback, is an opportunity to learn and develop:
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to not get too high or too low in general. It’s good to celebrate successes and to feel disappointment in failures, but all experiences come together to make you who you are. I’ve really felt myself grow as a player and a person in that regard.”
Looking beyond the current WNBA season, Karlie is already signed up for a second year in Spain at CB Avenida – again alongside sister Katie Lou – before GB tip off their EuroBasket 2023 qualifying campaign in November.