Katie Lou Samuelson received a surprise shortly after the Chicago Sky drafted her Wednesday night. (Getty Images)
Katie Lou Samuelson is switching shades of blue after the 2019 WNBA draft, though her jersey number will likely stay the same.
The University of Connecticut guard was drafted by the Chicago Sky with the fourth overall pick in the draft and received another surprise shortly after her moment on stage.
The WNBA team cued up highlights of her career that quickly switched into a video message from Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird, whose No. 33 Samuelson has proudly worn since fifth grade. Samuelson was projected as a top-5 draft pick all season, but it was the message from an idol that left her grasping for words.
“Congratulations on your amazing high school and college careers, Katie Lou. Your talent and determination will be a great asset to the WNBA and I wish you continued success. Thank you for the honor of wearing No. 33. I can’t wait to see what you will accomplish at the next level.”
Samuelson had trouble stringing words together she was so in awe of the surprise. Her admiration for the retired NBA superstar has been well covered since her days at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California. No one currently on the Sky roster wears No. 33, so it’s hers for the taking.
“Wow. That’s amazing,” Samuelson said. “That is amazing. I was not — I … am speechless. He’s my favorite player ever, why I wear the number. Oh my goodness, Wow. Thank you guys so much. Thanks, Larry!
The 6-foot-3 guard was born in 1997, a full five years after Bird’s last game with the Celtics. She told the UConn Blog at SB Nation in October she became a fan in fifth grade when her dad explained who Bird was to her and they watched his documentary. She told the site the family still has his 50 all-time greatest plays recorded on the DVR, so she watches it every time she’s home.
“I’ve just loved watching [Bird],” she said. “The stuff he does is crazy, it’s fun to watch, it’s entertaining and I think what really got me was how he might not look like he’s going to go out there and kick your butt but he’s the first one to start things. He’s not going to back down from everything and he’s going to produce after what he says.”
Samuelson is fourth on UConn’s all-time scoring list, heavy with superstars, with 2,342 points. She’s only the 10th Husky to reach the 2,000-point mark and ranks second in made 3-pointers. Among a long list of accolades, she helped the Huskies to the 2016 national title and the Final Four all three years following.
Samuelson and Naphessa Collier, drafted sixth overall by the Minnesota Lynx, are the highest scoring pair of classmates in UConn history. The Sky and the Lynx kick off the 2019 WNBA season against each other May 25 in Minnesota.
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