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Former Mater Dei girls basketball players Karlie Samuelson, a 6-foot senior guard on the Stanford and her younger sister Katie Lou, a 6-3 sophomore guard/forward on the UConn team both play today to make the final four. (Photo montage - OC Register/SCNG)

Samuelson sisters' success has parents doing double duty at Final Four

STAFF WRITER

Jon Samuelson will change from a Stanford shirt to a UConn shirt between today’s NCAA Women's Final Four basketball games.

He isn’t a front-runner. He’s a father.

Samuelson’s daughter Karlie is a 6-foot senior guard on the Stanford team that plays South Carolina in the first semifinal in Dallas at 3:30 p.m. His youngest daughter Katie Lou is a 6-3 sophomore guard/forward on the UConn team that plays Mississippi State at 6 p.m.

“We’re in the Stanford parent section for the first game,” Jon said. “Then we’re in the UConn section for the second game.”

And if Stanford and UConn both win to advance to Sunday's championship game?

“Maybe I’ll wear the shirt of one school,” Jon said, “and a hat of the other.”

Jon and Karen Samuelson have three daughters who were outstanding Orange County high school players.

Bonnie, the oldest, was an All-Orange County player and a McDonald’s All-American at Edison High. She also was a All-Pac-12 honorable mention player as a Stanford senior in 2015.

Karlie was at Edison through her junior year and transferred to Mater Dei for her senior year. She was All-Orange County and All-California at both schools. Karlie is the team captain at Stanford, where she is averaging 13 points a game.

Katie Lou spent her freshman year at Edison and transferred to Mater Dei along with Karlie before the 2012-13 school year.

Katie Lou is the best of the bunch. “Lou,” as she is mostly called, won a couple of national player of the year awards at Mater Dei. She is averaging 20 points a game for UConn this season and is an All-America first-team honoree.

Karlie and Katie Lou, and Bonnie, too, are different in playing styles and personalities.

Dad Jon’s assessment: “Bonnie is outgoing, a chatterbox and she’ll talk your ear off. Karlie’s come a long ways, but she’s still quiet, doesn’t like to do interviews and talk about herself, but she’s fierce on the court. Katie Lou is easygoing, confident and she’s kind of got that swagger about her on the court.”

Jon was a great player, too. In his senior year at Sonora High in La Habra, Jon was CIF-Southern Section Division 2A co-player of the year with Artesia of Lakewood’s Tom Tolbert (Tolbert played seven NBA seasons, including one with the Clippers … and that year’s 3A player of the year, Reggie Miller of Riverside Poly, was a great NBA player and now is a national broadcaster).

Jon played college basketball at Cal State Fullerton, then spent a year at Fullerton College before finishing his college basketball years at Chapman University when it still was called Chapman College. He played professionally in England, where he met Karen.

One of Jon’s younger brothers, Eric, was a Sonora teammate and was an All-CIF selection in 1983 and ‘84. Older brother Steve was a fine player, too. The youngest Samuelson brother, Mike, who died of a heart condition in 2011, was a well-known orthopedic surgeon in Orange County and served as the Fullerton High football team doctor.

Jon coached his daughters through their eighth-grade years.

“Then it was time to pass them on to other people,” he said.

Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan was one of those other people. He saw similarities and differences in the playing styles of Karlie and Katie Lou.

The similarities?

“They’re both great shooters, and it all starts there,” Kiernan said. “You could tell that Jon worked with them for years on getting their shot away quickly. That’s really worked well for them.”

The differences?

“Karlie was more of a gritty player in high school,” Kiernan said. “She would get on the floor, take charges. Lou was more of a finesse player at that time.

“Karlie was more analytical whereas Lou just played and just got after it. They’re both really competitive. They’re both great kids and their both smart, smart, smart kids.”

Dad, of course, continued to work with the girls. There were some mighty battles on the court at the Samuelson home in Huntington Beach.

The Samuelson girls were never on opposing teams in club basketball. At Mater Dei, Karlie and Katie Lou were always on the same group in every practice.

“This must be so weird for Jon and Karen,” Kiernan said.

Yes it is.

“Did I ever think they’d play in the Final Four at the same time? No,” Jon said.

"Obviously we joked and thought it'd be crazy if we played each other and watched the selection show to see what side of the bracket we'd be on," Karlie said after Stanford and UConn advanced to these semifinals. "We haven't talked much about it because we've been focused on playing games, but I'm happy we made the Final Four."

Jon, Karen and Bonnie will be in the stands for the Final Four games, and for the national championship game should either Karlie or Katie Lou - or both - get there.

“I think Bonnie’s got shirts that say ‘StanConn’ on them,” Jon said. “If they somehow both win, I don’t know what I’m going to do.

“But it’s going to be hilarious.”

Contact the writer: sfryer@scng.com


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