Growing up, Katie Lou Samuelson ’19 would go to Stanford University every year to watch her older sisters play the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.
“When I watched UConn play, I saw how great of a team they were and how hard they played every time they were on the court no matter who the opponent was,” says Samuelson, a shooting guard from Huntington Beach, Calif.
She dreamed of someday playing for the Huskies. When she visited campus and saw how close and family-oriented the team was, she just knew UConn was the place for her.
“It’s just a great basketball program, the best basketball program there is. I just felt so comfortable here and felt I would really fit in,” she says.
The 6′ 3″ freshman says she hopes to bring some outside shooting help to the team and contribute as another hardworking player.
In high school, Samuelson was Gatorade’s National Player of the Year and won four gold medals in international competition. Samuelson graduated from Mater Dei High School, the same high school that produced former UConn forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.
Samuelson, 18, comes from a basketball family. In addition to her sisters, Karlie and Bonnie, playing for Stanford, her father, Jon, played as a student at Cal State Fullerton and professionally in England. Her mother, Karen, played professional Netball, a game played in England that is similar to basketball but without the backboard.
Coach Geno Auriemma is still getting to know Samuelson’s strengths on the court.
“If her game matches her personality type and presence, she is going to have a great career at UConn,” he says.
Samuelson, who is considering majoring in allied health sciences, says she is appreciative of the endowed scholarship provided by ShopRite Supermarkets of Connecticut.
“I’m just very grateful and thankful that there are people who would donate so I would be able to come here. I don’t think I would be able to come without that,” Samuelson says.
Private support is more important than ever for the success of our 24 variety sports and more than 700 student-athletes. Student-athletes continue to excel with more than 50 percent earning a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
In the 2014-15 academic year, the Athletics Department paid $14 million in tuition costs, giving partial scholarships to 216 athletes and full scholarships to 196.
UConn’s championship success is due in large part to the success of the continued generosity of donors, season ticket holders, alumni and friends who support UConn Athletics each year.
Auriemma says the endowed scholarships help keep his team competitive.
“Usually it’s individuals that endow scholarships so for an organization like ShopRite to do it is a great commitment on their part,” Auriemma says.
ShopRite is a cooperative owned by 50 families, eight of which are from CT, set up the endowed scholarship in 2000. ShopRite was impressed by the caliber of the women’s basketball program and believes the fans represent its customer base, says Richard Cohen, who owns two ShopRite stores in Connecticut.
“I think it’s important to help fund student-athletes,” Cohen says. “To me, it’s supporting the institution of the state which we’re all very proud of. That program, with Geno Auriemma, Chris Dailey, and their staff, turns out not just great athletes, but great people. And once the players leave, they don’t just go to WNBA and never return. They come back and support UConn.”