Less than a year after the Sky drafted her fourth overall in the 2019 WNBA Draft, forward Katie Lou Samuelson’s time in Chicago has come to an end.
The Sky traded Samuelson and their 2021 first-round pick to the Wings for forward Azura Stevens, the team announced Friday.
Samuelson, who’s in town for NBA All-Star Weekend, was blindsided by the news. She was under the impression that she was staying with the Sky for the 2020 season and even attended a Sky-sponsored event Thursday with Diamond DeShields, Stefanie Dolson and Cheyenne Parker in which she spoke optimistically about a second season with the Sky.
“Crazy day,” Samuelson said. “For me, I’m looking forward to the future. I’m not going to get caught up in the past or whatever just happened here.”
Samuelson learned of the trade on her way to Navy Pier, where she co-hosted a “Her Time to Play” clinic for more than 300 local girls, ages 7 to 14. And three hours after the trade went down, Samuelson still hadn’t talked to general manager/coach James Wade, though he said he tried to call her.
“It’s been an interesting day, to say the least — unexpected,” Samuelson said. “But I’m excited for the future.”
Last season was a roller coaster for Samuelson. After coming in determined to make an immediate impact, Samuelson struggled to earn playing time and never found her niche in Wade’s system. She suffered a minor wrist injury that kept her out for about three weeks.
There also seemed to be communication problems between Wade and Samuelson.
In September, Wade told the Sun-Times that he was looking for a “long-term” solution to a future problem when he drafted Samuelson, hoping she would replace Allie Quigley when the three-time All-Star retired.
But Samuelson — not one to publicly call out her team — said Wade had put her in several spots last season, and replacing Quigley was only “one aspect” of what could happen. In response to the Sun-Times article, Samuelson’s mother said Wade had “never once communicated that to” her daughter.
In 20 games, Samuelson averaged 2.4 points and 0.9 rebounds.
Samuelson doesn’t have any regrets about her season with the Sky, during which she was reunited with UConn teammate Gabby Williams and got to play alongside veterans Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot.
“I don’t even have anything; I haven’t even thought about it,” Samuelson said. “This all kind of just happened now.”
Eight teams expressed interest in Samuelson this offseason, Wade said, but he didn’t entertain the idea of trading her until the Wings contacted him. He believes Samuelson and the Sky will benefit from the trade.
“She’s gonna be really, really good in this league,” Wade said. “I still have the same confidence in her from the night that I drafted her. It’s just that you have to give up good pieces to get good pieces.”
Wade claims he doesn’t regret drafting Samuelson and passing on Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier and runner-up Arike Ogunbowale. But this trade amounts to an admission that the team made a mistake.
In return, the Sky added frontcourt depth with Stevens, the sixth overall pick of the 2018 draft. In 2019, she averaged 4.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in nine games.
“It would’ve taken more time to develop [Samuelson] outside of injuries,” Wade said. “I felt like we want to play right away.
“For the next couple of days, everyone’s going to be disappointed, and it’s going to be bad feelings, but after the dust clears and the cloud clears away, I think everyone’s going to be happy.”