Inside Qadence Samuels’ UConn women’s basketball team summer recruiting: ‘Coach Geno noticed me’

Qadence Samuel’s grandmother always told him to ignore enemies.

“Don’t listen to anyone. Just play hard and do well and you’ll prove them wrong at the end of the day,” she would tell Samuels whenever she was upset.

During her high school games at Bishop McNamara in southern Maryland, Samuels says she sometimes hears derogatory things from people in the crowd and others on the field: “You’re no good. You are not a good shooter. You cannot play defense.

Samuels knows that all she can do is ignore them and, of course, prove them wrong.

That’s why last month, when UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma repeated her grandmother’s words during her unofficial visit to Storrs, Samuels knew UConn was the place to she.

“People were always saying I’m no good, like some people hate me and stuff just because I’m good at basketball. So Coach Geno talked to me in his office and he said, ‘If you want Prove them right, then go ahead, but if you want to prove them wrong, then prove them wrong,” Samuels told Hearst Connecticut Media on Saturday by phone. “He was speaking of this if you want to prove them wrong, then get to the Final Four and become a pro. If you want to prove them right, then just go to another school.

Samuels, a 6-foot-2 guard from Maryland, became the third player from the Class of 2023 to sign for UConn. She joins fellow guards KK Arnold and Ashlynn Shade in the recruiting class.

While his recruiting process with UConn was quick — just under a month — Samuels said his commitment to the Huskies was fueled by his passion for taking basketball to the next level.

“UConn is a really good school and they have great players on their basketball team and they can make the Final Four,” she said. “He and his (Auriemma) team can take me to the Final Four and I believe he can make me a pro.”

PASSION FOR BASKETBALL

Samuels, ranked by ESPN as the 35th prospect for the Class of 2023, said she first picked up a basketball when she was in sixth grade. It wasn’t long before she started training with a trainer and was inspired to see her hard work turn into results on the pitch.

Since then, Samuels has woken up at 6 a.m. each day to begin the first of her three workouts. His days consist of bodybuilding, going to school, then his basketball practice, then other workouts.

“I work really hard,” she said. “It’s really nothing. It’s just books and basketball.

For Samuels, being on the pitch has become his refuge. It’s just her, the basketball and the net. No outside voices. Just her, her hard work and her goals.

“My favorite thing about basketball is that I really love the game,” she said. “It keeps me out of my head and it just sets me free. I really like shooting the ball. I can shoot it from deep and it will still go.

While Samuels’ favorite NBA player is Stephen Curry, her favorite in the women’s game is former Baylor star and current New York Liberty guard Didi Richards.

During her freshman year in high school, one of Samuels’ friends told her that she looked like Richards, especially when she had her hair up in her signature basketball look: two big puffs on each side. Richards almost always wore her hair the same way throughout her college career.

“She’s my favorite player because she’s looking for the ball,” Samuels said. “She can dribble the ball. She really scores. Everyone says I’m like her but I can shoot better than her.

UCONN COMMITMENT

Samuels says the recruiting process was pretty much complete when UConn reached out in June. She planned to commit in her senior year and was already leaning towards Miami.

But after Auriemma saw her at an AAU game earlier this summer, he immediately expressed interest in signing her.

“I was playing really hard like diving for the ball, bouncing a lot and I guess Coach Geno noticed me and he told his staff that he wanted me and wanted to sign me,” Samuels said. “It was really exciting. I had no idea UConn was going to hire me.

When Samuels’ father told her that Auriemma had reached out, she cried.

“I started crying because it was just, I was like, ‘I can’t believe this. Like he’s recruiting me right now?'” she said.

On June 16, Samuels made his unofficial visit to Storrs. She toured the program’s weight room, locker rooms and training grounds and even went to lunch with the current squad.

After years of watching Paige Bueckers on TV and YouTube, Samuels was thrilled to meet the 2021 National Player of the Year in person.

“I really like Paige,” Samuels said. “I was a fan of Paige when she was on (digital media company) Overtime and everything. I always watched it so it was like a dream come true. …

“She’s a really good shooter and she works hard and plays hard too. I watched her play and it’s like she can do like every shot, like Stephen Curry.

Samuels was also able to reconnect with Azzi Fudd, also from the Washington DC area. Fudd played in the same high school conference as Samuels and went to the same school (St. John’s College) as Samuels’ older brother, Qwanzi.

Fudd, Qwanzi and Qadence often trained together in St. John’s early in the morning.

“She really motivates me a lot,” Qadence said of Fudd. “She’ll tell me to push harder and that I get it.”

Samuels announced his verbal commitment to UConn about a week after his unofficial visit. While it’s hard not to be impressed with UConn’s facilities and talented players, for Samuels the ultimate deciding factor was Auriemma. Her words recalled what she had heard from her grandmother, Toki Taylor.

Prior to Taylor’s death in December 2021, the Samuels family drove from Maryland to New Jersey to spend time with and care for her.

She and Samuels were close. Today, she remembers Taylor through the blue wax she used to dye her right eyebrow. Blue was Taylor’s favorite color.

Samuels now knows she’s committed to UConn, she might hear more negative feedback. Some may try to get inside his head and remind him of the added pressure of committing to the sport’s most iconic program.

But in those moments when she feels weak, she said she will remember her grandmother’s words.

“She told me,” Samuels said, “’Don’t listen to these haters. They just hate you because they’re jealous of you, so prove them wrong at the end of the day and you’ll succeed. ”

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