Katie Lou Samuelson was looking forward to adding to her collection of gold medals she's won playing for USA Basketball.
But after making the United States U-19 national team in May, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's freshman guard left the club's training camp in Colorado Springs last week to return home to Huntington Beach, California, due to a family issue. On Friday, USA Basketball announced that guard Destiny Slocum will replace Samuelson on the 12-player roster that will take part in the FIBA U-19 world championships starting Saturday in Chekhov, Russia.
"It's disappointing that we won't have Katie Lou on our trip, someone who has so much USA Basketball international experience winning gold medals," Team USA and University of South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "You can't really substitute someone who's been through it at the U-16 level, U-17 level, 3x3. She is a seasoned vet and it's going to be hard to replace someone like her.
"But Destiny is willing to come in and help us challenge for a gold medal. It'll be her first stint with USA Basketball, but she's the type of player who is always in attack mode on both sides of the ball. So what we lose in Katie Lou's experience and her ability to stretch the floor, we gain with someone like Destiny who is able to shoot it from the outside. She's got great court vision and she doesn’t mind playing defense on the other side of the ball. We look forward to getting her up to speed and her helping us win a gold medal in Russia."
Samuelson owns four gold medals out of four international events, winning championships with Team USA at the 2013 FIBA Americas U-16 tournament, the 2013 FIBA U-18 3x3 championships, the 2014 FIBA U-17 world championships, and the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. She added a bronze medal at the YOG's 3-point shootout.
She averaged a team-high 13.9 points and 5.0 rebounds in earning all-tournament honors at the U-17 world championships a year ago.
As a junior last winter, Slocum led Mountain View High to its first Idaho 5A state championship with a 26-1 record. She averaged 25.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.9 steals per game.
She will join Team USA in Russia on Saturday.
"It was kind of crazy, because I didn't think this was going to happen,” Slocum said. "The first alternate had already been picked up and to have a second one is pretty rare. I just started crying when I heard. I was so excited.
"As happy as I am, I really feel bad for Katie Lou. I feel like it’s her spot, but I'm happy that I can come in and she can be home and support her family. I really feel bad. If I could switch and she could play and not go though what she is going through, I would switch in a heartbeat."
Team USA warmed up for their trip to Russia by going 3-0 to win the Spain U-19 International Invitational title in Mercia, Spain. The Americans defeated Australia (85-82), Canada (95-40), and Spain (75-51).
UConn freshman forward Napheesa Collier averaged 12.3 points on 60.0 percent shooting and 6.7 rebounds in 24.0 minutes in the three games. UConn Class of 2016 commit Crystal Dangerfield averaged 7.3 points on 36.4 percent shooting and 4.0 assists in 23.7 minutes. The point guard hit all six of her free throws including two in the final minute that iced the win over Australia.
Team USA will begin Group B pool play in Russia Saturday against Spain, then take on China Sunday, and Egypt Tuesday. All its games begin at 1:15 p.m. (EDT).