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Sky rookie Katie Lou Samuelson adjusting to new role in WNBA

After being a four-year starter at UConn, Katie Lou Samuelson is adjusting to her new role off the bench with the Sky.

After being a four-year starter at UCONN, guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson is adjusting to her new role off the bench with the Sky.
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After being a four-year starter at UConn, guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson is adjusting to her role off the bench with the Sky.

When the Sky drafted Samuelson fourth overall in April, she was excited. Sure, she needed to improve her defense, but Samuelson believed she could make an immediate impact.

General manager and coach James Wade was confident in her, too. Wade said Samuelson was an all-around athlete and thought her skills would translate immediately to the WNBA.

But more than halfway through the season, Samuelson, who was sidelined in June with a broken wrist, hasn’t been given consistent minutes and has played in only seven of the Sky’s 21 games.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs,” Samuelson told the Sun-Times in a phone interview before the Sky’s 87-75 victory Saturday against the Dream in Atlanta. “Going into the second half of the season, I’m hoping to get more time to contribute to the team and build that trust going into the playoffs.”

Samuelson is trying to maintain a positive attitude, but she admitted it’s frustrating when she doesn’t get an opportunity to play some days.

“Everyone wants to do what they can to contribute,” said Samuelson, who had one steal in just over four minutes against the Dream. “So [you’re] just making sure you’re ready at all times and keeping that mindset of always being ready.”

Samuelson isn’t the only Sky rookie struggling with the adjustment to pro ball. Guard Chloe Jackson, who starred on Baylor’s national championship team last season, has played in only six games.

“It’s a little surprising,” Jackson said of her lack of playing time. “I knew I wouldn’t be this star or starting, but I thought I could contribute a little more to the team this year.”

But Jackson, who was out for a week in June with an ankle injury, said she doesn’t question Wade’s decision-making.

“He always says, ‘You can hate me, but just know everything I’m doing is for a reason. We want to develop you, and we see what you can bring to the table, but be patient,’ ” Jackson said. “So that’s just what I trust. I trust him. Whatever he’s doing, I know it’s for a reason.”

Wade assured that he has a method in mind.

“The plan is just to find time when we can put [Samuelson] on the floor,” Wade said. “She’s been really good in practice, but the players who are playing in front of her have been good, too. We’re invested in her, and we have to find her time to where she can play and where she can be comfortable and we can set her up for success.”

It’s uncommon for a player who was drafted as high as Samuelson to get so little playing time. When her draft position was brought up, Wade said, “I don’t care about that.”

“She’s a big part of what we’re going to do going forward,” he said. “It has nothing to do with where we drafted her.”

Samuelson said she trusts Wade and is eager for her next opportunity.

“Whenever I do get chances, I’m going to be ready,” Samuelson said. “I’m going to do more every single time I do get on the court, and that’s my goal going forward — to show something else and to continue to try to gain that trust.”