Katie Lou Samuelson ready to help Seattle Storm after missing Olympics due to COVID-19

1:00 AM ET

Mechelle VoepelESPN.com

CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

Seattle Storm forward Katie Lou Samuelson was heartbroken that COVID-19 kept her from playing in the Tokyo Olympics. But it won’t stop her from contributing as much as she can to the Storm’s attempt to repeat as WNBA champions..

She and the team will be back in action Thursday as the Storm face Connecticut in the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup championship game.

“I’ve been doing a lot more every single day, feeling better,” Samuelson said Monday. “I’m excited to start playing again.”

Samuelson, who is in her first season in Seattle, tested positive for COVID-19 just before she was to leave for Japan as part of the United States’ 3×3 team. She was replaced by Las Vegas’ Jackie Young, and the Americans won the gold medal in the sport’s Olympic debut.

For Samuelson, it was a devastating blow to not take part after she had earned the spot in helping the team qualify.

“The biggest thing for me was being OK with feeling upset, feeling angry,” Samuelson said. “Knowing that was part of what’s going to happen with something of this magnitude. And just knowing that you can always reframe every single day to make something out of it, rather than a negative experience every day.

“I’m just happy to get going again in games. It’s been a really long couple of weeks, so it’s nice to have something to focus on.”

Samuelson experienced some COVID-19 symptoms.

“I did get sick, I was needing to take the steps to get better and make sure I was 100 percent,” she said. “These past few days, I’ve gotten some good work in. The biggest thing is getting my lungs back and getting my body feeling like I can play for long times again. It will be nice to get a couple more practices before this game Thursday.

“Nothing mimics a game exactly, so it will be interesting to see those first couple of minutes how my wind is. And just how I feel. Just the adrenaline and excitement of playing again will be a lot and help me get through it.”

It’s important to the Storm to have Samuelson, especially since three Seattle players — Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd — might be a bit fatigued after playing for Team USA in the Olympics and traveling back from Japan. Two other Storm players, Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot, also played in the Olympics for Australia, which lost to the United States in the quarterfinals.

“Just the way that she has approached her day-to-day — she’s just put her heart and mind and soul into us right now,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn said. “If you think about what she went through, think of the toll it can take on someone. She understands we need her to be at her best. I commend her and appreciate what she’s showing. She took good care of herself at home, and when she was able to be back on the court with us, she’s looked amazing.”

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