Three sisters, one out-of-sight dad
Jon Samuelson, father of one of the most successful sister acts in women's basketball, is ever-present in the lives of his three talented daughters -- he's just hard to find during their games.
Samuelson, who played college basketball at Cal State Fullerton and pro ball in Europe, has taught the game to Bonnie, who will be a senior at Stanford this fall; Karlie, a rising sophomore at Stanford; and Katie Lou, a 6-foot-3 wing at Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.), a Connecticut recruit and the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 class.
Jon and his wife of 24 years, Karen, have gone to hundreds of their kids' games and settled into the bleachers next to each other. At least initially.
"At every game, he is always hidden up in the stands, pacing," Katie Lou said. "It's like 'Where's Waldo?' trying to find him. He's always in the weirdest spot, away from everyone, in the top corner of the bleachers or some random place."
Bonnie, a 6-3 forward who averaged 7.3 points for the Cardinal last season, finds her dad's nervous habit amusing.
"During warm-ups, I try to find him, but he's always hiding behind different poles," she said. "It's hilarious. But I know it's because he wants us to do really well."
They have certainly done that, and the calling card of all three players is their outside shooting, a facet of their games he helped cultivate.
Bonnie, who had her number retired at Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.) after setting school records in career points and 3-pointers, has been shooting lights out for years.
In 2011-12, she made 44 3-pointers, which is third-most in Stanford history for a freshman. As a sophomore, she led the team with 49 3-pointers. And last season, she led the team with 63 3-pointers and made 40.6 percent of her shots from that distance.
"My shot is a complete result of his amazing teaching and coaching," said Bonnie, who was on Great Britain's 20-player 2012 Olympic training camp roster but was forced to withdraw because of injury. "I'm very grateful."
Karlie, a 6-0 wing, echoed her sister's sentiments and seems destined for a stellar college career, as well.
Last season, Karlie was named honorable mention on the Pac-12's all-freshman team after averaging 5.8 points and making 35.6 percent from behind the arc.
Katie Lou, meanwhile, could be the most stellar of the sisters. Last summer she put on an amazing shooting display for the United States' U16 team at the FIBA Americas Championship in Cancun, Mexico. Katie Lou helped lift the USA to the gold medal by going 8-for-8 from behind the arc in the final. She made 18 3-pointers in five tournament games, a USA U17 record, and shot 53 percent from behind the arc, also a USA record. She'll spend this Father's Day back in Colorado Springs at training camp for the USA U17 team.
Karen, who was a standout netball (a sport that was derived from the early versions of basketball) player in her native England, said she and Jon first put the girls in soccer before they moved on to basketball.
"We wanted them to play sports because we thought it was important for them to develop self-esteem and work ethic," Karen said.
Jon coached all three of his daughters in rec leagues.
"As they got better," Karen said, "he started looking for different clinics and club teams.
"Jon would watch a drill and go home and sleep on it. The next day, he would have a variation of that drill to help make them better. But he would always make them do it at game speed so that they could learn to react like you would in a game."
Oftentimes, the hardest part for Jon and the girls was finding an open gym where they could work on their shots.
"He would take us shooting every day," said Bonnie, who made the Pac-12 all-academic second team last season. "We'd go 'gym hunting,' especially on weekends when some rec centers are not open."
Jon said that while the games are stressful for him, practice has always been fun -- and finding a place to play added to the enjoyment.
"It's amazing how many churches and schools you can find that have a gym with a door cracked open," he said. "So even though we were shooting the same shots, it made it seem like a new thing for them because we were at a different gym."
Jon and the girls don't get to go shooting very often anymore, especially now that Bonnie and Karlie are at Stanford.
But there was an occasion last August when Jon decided he'd go through the Stanford workout with his oldest daughters.
That didn't go so well, said Bonnie, who noted with amusement that her 49-year-old dad didn't even make it halfway through before he pulled a calf muscle.
Bonnie did say, however, that the remnants of basketball skill are still there.
"He has a decent left-handed shot -- he's pretty ambidextrous," she said. "He used to give us some pretty good games in H-O-R-S-E."
The game he and his daughters are most likely to play together these days involves movie lines and Will Ferrell "Saturday Night Live" skits.
"Jon has a great sense of humor," Karen said. "The girls all love movies. And that's how they talk to each other. They can't have a conversation without a movie quote being thrown in.
"They make fun of me because I can never remember the lines, but they know every word. One bounces off the other."
It may seem silly, but the movie lines may have been just as important to the family's basketball success as the girls' pure shooting strokes.
Karen said the family's policy is to "leave it in the gym," and once the game or practice is over, they can all walk away and have fun.
That attitude is appreciated by all three of the couple's daughters.
"He's been my role model ever since I was little," Katie Lou said. "He's taught me almost everything -- whether it was how to ride a bike or play basketball.
"He has always been supportive, but he also knows when to be strict. He wouldn't let me settle for less, and that's why I am the player I am today."
Jon said he is proud of his daughters, but he refuses to take credit.
"They've put in a lot of work," he said. "All three of them love the game.
"But, more than basketball, I'm more proud when someone comes up to me and says that they are nice kids and nice people. That's the biggest compliment."