STORRS Conn. - Katie Lou Samuelson follows her own path, even when she's on the foul line.
While her older sisters, Bonnie are Karlie, are role models, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's sophomore guard approaches free throws in a way that's best for her.
"Bonnie, Karlie, and I have a similar shot routine," Samuelson said. "Karlie takes three dribbles and shoots. Bonnie would take three dribbles and spin it in the air and shoot it. I take three dribbles, spin it and let it drop, and shoot it. I chose mine when I was younger because I saw what they were doing and wanted to be different."
Whatever works? Bonnie Samuelson was an 89.3 percent shooter at Stanford, including a 6-for-6 effort in the Cardinal's win over UConn on Nov. 17, 2014, the Huskies' only loss in their last 155 games. Karlie Samuelson will take an 83.8 percent career mark into her final NCAA tournament as Stanford opens with New Mexico State in Manhattan, Kansas.
The youngest Samuelson is at 83.7 percent as a sophomore and 84.5 percent for her career as UConn gets ready for a run at a record fifth straight national championship. The unbeaten and top-seeded Huskies host No. 16 America East tournament champion Albany in a NCAA Bridgeport Regional first-round game on Saturday at Gampel Pavilion.
Whatever UConn has been doing at the line has been working. The Huskies' 78.7 percent accuracy is tops in the American Athletic Conference and seventh nationally. South Dakota leads the nation in free-throw percentage at 81.6.
"We work on it in practice," UConn guard Kia Nurse said. "It has to be above 90 percent and that's our goal. It's the focus of understanding that you have a goal and you have to get it as a team.
"But when we're not shooting free throws well in the game we generally don't practice them. Then all you're doing is practicing missing."
Nurse leads the AAC at 86.1 percent from the line while Samuelson is fifth. Napheesa Collier checks in at sixth at 83.8 percent. Saniya Chong is at 80.4 percent but does not have enough attempts to qualify for the league leaders. Gabby Williams is last among the starters at 68.6 percent.
Like Samuelson, each has her own way to prepare and relax.
Nurse takes three dribbles and shoots.
"It's just quick," she said. "You do all that extra nonsense and it distracts you. At one point I used to spin the ball, but that's too much work.
"Once you go to the line you take a deep breath. There's not much to foul shooting other than being a confident shooter and telling yourself, 'I'm going to make this.' "
So is spinning the ball a bad thing?
Don't tell that to Chong, who is at 80.7 percent for her career.
"I have no clue why I do it," Chong said. "We were just talking about this after practice and it was so random. They noticed. I don't know where it came from. I decided to spin the ball and take three dribbles.
"Over time I've always done it and I'm so used to it. It's right for me because I feel comfortable with it. And I think I've been doing well with it. No one ever has tried to change it. I'm not going to jinx myself so I will keep going with it."
Williams made just 46.2 percent of her foul shots as a freshman, but improved to 75.0 percent a year ago. She has slipped back a bit as a junior.
She'd rather just shoot than think.
"The more that I think about it, the worse it is," Williams said. "I'm trying to get in as many repetitions as I can so I get into the gym a lot."
The Sparks, Nevada, native's routine is similar to Chong's.
"I spin the ball to myself, take three dribbles and a deep breath, and knock it in," Williams said. "I always liked the three dribbles. I've always felt that I' m more of a rhythm shooter and so that's why I like the three dribbles. If I miss, I take a step back from the line and come right back to it."
Collier's routine is different from her fellow starters.
When the sophomore forward gets the ball from the referee, she takes a breath, eyes the basket, and fires.
"Dribbling is just extra stuff to do on the free-throw line," Collier said. "I eliminated that when I was a senior in high school. It's more of a flow to me than dribbling the ball.
"I don't remember when I started doing it. I think whatever feels good for a particular individual is what they should do. For me, dribbling just throws my rhythm off."
The only UConn team to shoot better than the current squad is last year's club, which finished at an even 80.0 percent.
AURIEMMA MAKES NAISMITH CUT
UConn's Geno Auriemma is among four finalists for the Naismith Trophy as 2017 Coach of the Year, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Wednesday.
Auriemma, a seven-time Naismith winner (1995, 1997. 2000, 2002, 2008, 2009, 2016), has led the Huskies to a 32-0 record entering NCAA tournament play and 107 consecutive wins overall. UConn swept the AAC regular season and tournament championships for a fourth straight year. He owns a career record of 887-134 and his .880 winning percentage is No. 1 all time. UConn has won a record 11 national championships in his tenure.
The other finalists are Karen Aston of Texas, Scott Rueck of Oregon State, and Vic Schaefer of Mississippi State.
The winner will be announced on April 1.