February 1, 2024 

Indiana Fever agree to terms with Katie Lou Samuelson

Inside what motivated Samuelson, Fever to come together

The Indiana have agreed to a two-year, full protection contract with Katie Lou Samuelson, adding the versatile forward as she returns to the WNBA after missing the 2023 season due to pregnancy — giving birth to Aliya Renae in August 2023. The Fever won a spirited bidding war for Samuelson’s services, with six teams making serious offers to obtain the former University of Connecticut standout.

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Samuelson averaged 9.7 points per game in 29 games, including 25 starts, for her hometown Los Angeles Sparks in 2022, her best season as a pro. But sources familiar with the Fever’s thinking believe that her best days are ahead of her, a belief supported by her full body of work.


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A system that includes Aliyah Boston, Kelsey Mitchell and potentially Caitlin Clark cries out for a big floor spacer like Samuelson, who can hit threes at an elite level, but is also big enough to both play the four and guard opposing bigs.

“I think since I’ve gotten to the league, people have known that I’m a shooter,” Samuelson said on the Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast back in August 2022. “And I think when I sub in, or I’m on the court, I can hear every offense or every coach over there, like “shooter shooters” over here. So that’s kind of been understood. And even coming into this year, my numbers haven’t necessarily shown how much I feel like I can shoot the ball; I think it’s been an understanding of that. And so being able to space the floor is something that I really do well.”

Samuelson has sought to find the right role for herself after being drafted fourth overall by the Chicago Sky in 2019. The talented 6’3 Samuelson has seemed star-crossed during her career, between injuries at inopportune times (she missed a chance at a gold medal with USA Basketball 3×3 in 2021, testing positive for COVID right before the games began) to difficult, unstable situations in many of her early WNBA stops.


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Her production overseas matched the expectations for her coming out of Connecticut, where she led the 2018-19 Huskies to a fourth Final Four in her four seasons in Storrs. The three-time All-American is one of the most decorated players in college basketball history. She’s served as director of player development this season for Vanderbilt, one of the biggest surprise contenders in the 2023-24 season.

“I always thought Lou was perfect for for a college team because she could play so many different positions,” her college head coach, Geno Auriemma, told The Next Wednesday night. “And I thought she’d be perfect for a WNBA team if they if they had the right pieces because they can put her, depending on the matchups, anywhere. And teams keep trading for her because they know if I have the pieces, she’s a missing piece. And the fact that she’s a 6’3 guard and she creates problems on some matchups — and you can play her as a four a lot of times and she’s smart.”

Now she’ll have the opportunity to build on her WNBA legacy as well. The Fever played like a playoff team over the final stretch of the 2023 season, with a .500 record and a top-four offensive rating, and the addition of both Samuelson and Damiris Dantas, who agreed to join the Fever on a two-year, guaranteed deal as well and will serve as important depth behind the bigs Boston and NaLyssa Smith, can help turn the Fever into a contender faster than many people think.

The Fever’s on-court prospects, combined with a situation that is family-friendly — Samuelson’s husband, Devin Cannady, grew up just two hours north of Indianapolis, in Mishawaka, and has family in the state ready to help the young family — made Indiana’s pitch the winner.

“She’s a mom and she wants to go back and play professional basketball,” Auriemma said. “So I’m really happy for because sometimes kids lose their love of the game when something like that happens. And I think she’s on the right team.”

As for Dantas, the 31-year-old is playing very well in Turkey, scoring nearly 20 points per game for Ormanspor, while hitting 44.5 percent of her threes. She also has history with Fever assistant Karima Christmas-Kelly, who overlapped with Dantas in Minnesota.

Taken together, the signings would accomplish most of what Fever general manager Lin Dunn said she’d set out to accomplish when she spoke with Locked On Women’s Basketball last fall.

All that’s missing is a lead guard to pair with Kelsey Mitchell in the backcourt. The team Caitlin Clark could lead deep into the playoffs has been assembled. Now it’s up to Clark whether or not to complete Dunn’s work.

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.

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