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The Women's Sports Alliance

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Karlie Samuelson: Resilience, rebounds and going global with basketball growth

“There’s something so beautiful about basketball, because you have the chance to be so uniquely creative,” London Lions and GB shooting guard Karlie Samuelson tells the WSA. “Getting people to play different roles and fit together on court is magical to see.”

Image courtesy of @LondonLionsSW


Women’s basketball is “growing so quickly” and making “amazing progress.”


That is the view of British international shooting guard Karlie Samuelson.


As a player who has competed in the USA’s WNBA, as well as across domestic divisions in Belgium, Italy, Spain, Australia and now the UK, she is ideally placed to give this positive assessment.


The British international shooting guard was born in California and is the middle of three sisters who have all followed in their father’s footsteps by playing the sport to an elite level.


Jon Samuelson played college basketball in the states before moving to the UK and playing professionally, in the pre-BBL era, in England.


He met wife Karen, who played for the England Netball team during her youth and it is through her that Karlie – and her elder sister Bonnie – have been eligible to play for Great Britain.


After signing for London Lions, Karlie sat down with the Women’s Sports Alliance to discuss her journey so far and future plans with her new franchise.


"Making the decision to move is never easy, but I wanted to be part of something BIG!"

Image @karliesamuelson


Q – Basketball was obviously a huge part of your life growing up given your parents both played the sport and your older sister took it up too, but when did you start to see it as more than a hobby and as something you would pursue for a career?


“I actually didn't plan on playing professionally until my last year of college, when I thought ‘wait, I really like this!’


“I'm lucky enough to be playing at a time where women's basketball is growing, but it was a big step for me to go overseas to play. I’m grateful though to be playing in a generation where people were doing it and I felt safe enough to go.


“Obviously my mum is from England, so going to play in Europe sounded fun as I hadn’t been there apart from on random college trips, so I wanted that experience.”


Q – You have played in the USA, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Australia and now are here in the UK. How exciting, but also challenging do you find moving around different countries and settling into new environments – as well as team dynamics?


“I'm proud of myself with the decisions I've made in my career to continue to push myself, to be uncomfortable because that's how I've grown.


“That said, I played in my same Spanish team (CB Avenida) for three straight years; I loved it and grew every season, making great bonds with my teammates.


“I play my best when I feel like I'm really close with my teammates and it feels like a family so I’ve been lucky to find that and have the success, but immersing myself into the team, the culture and just being present is really important.


“It was the same thing with my Australian team (Townsville Fire) and we became like a sisterhood who won, so I’m looking to find that here (at London Lions) as well.”


Image courtesy of @LondonLionsSW


Q – From your experiences all how do you see the growth and development of the women’s game globally right now?


“Women’s basketball is growing so quickly.


“I'm very grateful to have played in a lot of the top leagues around the world and it's cool to see the amazing progress!


“Previously European players didn’t really come over to the WNBA because the level is unreal, but the level everywhere in the world is improving, across Europe and even in Australia.


“Now you have people coming over (to the WNBA) from Europe and absolutely storming it which is cool to see and maybe there’s more from Britain (British Basketball League – BBL) to come as well because the level is super, super high now.”


Q – You’ve played for Great Britain since 2018, but what made you feel that ‘now’ was the right time to play domestically in the country and sign for London Lions?

Image courtesy of @LondonLionsSW


“I had an absolutely amazing time in Australia and it was actually going to take a lot for me to leave, especially winning the championship there, but it felt right.


“I want to be part of something big and it’s an exciting time to be part of London Lions as well as British Basketball, so it just feels right.


“It's amazing to live in London and also to be with the girls because I’ve seen their success over the past couple of seasons in the Euro Cup and I want to help be a part of that.


“Obviously the goal at the start of the season was to make Euro League, but going through those first few games of the season was a great stepping stone and experience so now we want to really kill it in the Euro Cup!”


Q – There have been many successes during your career so far, but I wonder, what gives you the greatest pride when you look back on those many ‘magical moments?’


“I've been cut many times in the WNBA and it happened right before the EuroBasket with Great Britain in 2019 and I was devastated.


“My ego was hurt, I was sad, but we had a fantastic EuroBasket, where we finished fourth and it was one of my favourite experiences, so I was really proud of myself for staying positive.


“I think when you face failure, but you keep working hard and stay positive you can work through it and I think that experience helped me grow a lot.”

Q – Do you have a motto or message that gives you inspiration before you compete?


“Confidence doesn't come super naturally to me and there have been periods of my career where I've been extremely nervous before a big game.


“I have this rhyme which is actually my screensaver on my phone and it’s a bit cheesy, but I use it to build myself up before games.


“It goes; ‘I'm strong. I'm smart. I put in the time, I put in the work, now let myself shine’.


“There are going to be people in life that hold you down, so you can’t be the one holding yourself back.


"You’ve got to believe in yourself first and learn from every experience.”

Image @karliesamuelson


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