She went from pandemic pickup games with family to U-Conn. hoops commit

WASHINGTON POST: Six years before she committed to the most famous women’s basketball program on the planet, Qadence Samuels felt disqualified by her ability.

She was 11 years old and facing her first day of training for a sport she had recently decided to take more seriously. But, having entered a youth basketball world where most start specializing years earlier, Samuels did not think she was good enough to compete. Her parents, also basketball players, watched as their quiet child stood to the side and shot baskets by herself, working up the nerve to join the group.

“I was so nervous,” Samuels recalled. “It took me a few days to settle in and realize I could play with them.”

When she finally joined in, Samuels began a basketball journey that has landed her in an enviable position. She is a senior star for Bishop McNamara, one of the best high school programs in the D.C. area despite a 2-4 start this year against a brutal schedule. At 6-foot-2, she is a versatile and skilled player, the kind of positionless, tireless prospect coaches dream of. And she is destined for Storrs as part of Connecticut’s 2023 recruiting class.

“She’s the type of player that makes it all look effortless,” McNamara Coach Frank Oliver said. “But it took a lot of work.”

Samuels is the second oldest of seven children, all of whom play basketball. Her older brother, Qwanzi, also played in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (at St. John’s) and is now on the team at George Washington. Qadence started playing at a young age, but it took her a while to see the sport as a passion. In the bleachers watching her brothers and sisters, she was more of a bored sibling than a student of the game.

“She was always around basketball but really didn’t take to it until she was around 11,” her dad, Qwanzi, said. “It wasn’t until then that we knew she loved it.”

In Qadence’s memory, that shift in mind-set happened in part because she realized she had potential, just as her father told her. After conquering her nerves and getting involved in more full-time training, she became a sought-after middle school recruit.

She joined a McNamara team that was loaded with Division I talent, and she carved out a small role her freshman year as the Mustangs marched to their first WCAC title in more than a decade. But any momentum that had been built that winter by Samuels or her team was halted in the spring by the coronavirus pandemic. Samuels, like so many high school athletes, suddenly had an empty calendar.

This article was written by the Washington Post, read the full story here.

Photo: Bishop McNamara’s Qadence Samuels, left, committed to Connecticut in June. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

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