Coming off a heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame in the Final Four last year, the last thing Katie Lou Samuelson wanted to do in the offseason was watch that game and relive the loss again. For someone that has lost as little as Samuelson has in her time at UConn, she didn’t think rehashing those memories would make things any better.
Then, a talk with Kobe Bryant changed Samuelson’s perspective.
Bryant, one of the NBA’s all-time greats by basically any measure, explained in an interview with Lewis Howes that he told Samuelson that she needed to watch that game and learn from her mistakes in order to get better. While the rewatch would be a gut punch initially, it could pay valuable dividends when she leads the Huskies in a rematch against the Irish this year in the regular season and if they meet once again in the NCAA tournament.
So Samuelson did just that and reached out to Bryant to ask if he’d be willing to rewatch that Notre Dame game with her.
“I asked him if he would ever be interested in that,” Samuelson said. “His team practices that where my old club team practiced a lot of times and so I met him a few times and I kind of know him from the past year or so.”
After Bryant agreed, he and Samuelson pored over game tape at Bryant’s offices in California, watching every detail from the game for hours with Bryant making his observations.
“The biggest thing is that is he literally watches everything that’s going on in whether it’s a timeout or not, he’s watching what the other coaches are saying, what people are saying on the court, trying to read body language,” Samuelson said. “And sometimes you think ‘just watch the game and the play that’s happening,’ but everything from three seconds before the basket was made, or five seconds after how the person who’s guarding me or how I reacted to the person I was guarding, every little detail matters.”
While it wasn’t easy to watch that game the first time around — especially with Bryant in the room — Samuelson has watched the game “over 10 times” since meeting with the Black Mamba this summer and has gotten some quality observations out of it.
“[There are] little things that you don’t even notice were happening or could have happened in other games too like spacing issues and stuff,” Samuelson said. “I’m very grateful that he had the time to take out and show that to me because I don’t think i would have seen all that stuff that i got to see during that film session. Now I’m able to see it more on the court too.”
Head coach Geno Auriemma has taken notice of the impact Bryant has on Samuelson.
“I was hoping she’d come out, maybe have a little bit of his athletic ability, a little bit of his swagger, a little bit of his f—k you mentality, but she still came out as Lou,” Auriemma said. “She’s already a smart player, she already sees things, so I think she got to see it a different way, which is really cool.”
As she enters her final season in Storrs, Samuelson has a chance to get back to the national championship game for the first time since her freshman year. And with those words of wisdom from Bryant, she has the right mindset to try and make her goal a reality.