- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

STORRS, Conn. (AP) - UConn freshmen Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier are spending a lot of time watching forward Breanna Stewart.

They study how the two-time national player of the year gets position in the lane, frees herself for a 3-point shot or angles her body on defense to block a shot without picking up a foul.

Both freshmen have key roles this season as UConn and Stewart attempt to win a fourth consecutive national title. Both are expected to see significant playing time as the top-ranked Huskies host No. 3 Notre Dame on Saturday.

But they also know their roles will get much larger when Stewart graduates in the spring.

“We need to learn from her and keep watching her and do whatever we can to help her this year, but also pick up on what she does and how she plays, so we can hopefully fill some of the spots next year,” said Samuelson. “I’m just going to enjoy playing with her this year and want to learn as much as I can from her.”

The 6-foot-3 Samuelson came to the Huskies with a reputation as an outside shooter at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, the same school as UConn alum Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. She averaged 24.9 points and 8.5 rebounds her senior year.

Like the 6-4 Stewart, she can also play multiple positions on the floor. Coach Geno Auriemma said that’s why Stewart’s mentorship is so important.

“One of the last things I said to Lou today was, ‘Lou, be like Stewie today - rebound, play defense, run the floor, be aggressive,’” Auriemma said after Samuelson’s 14-point effort last week against Nebraska. “Don’t just wander around looking for your next 3-pointer.”

The 6-1 Collier also has the ability to fill a stat sheet. She averaged 26.2 points, 13.0 rebounds, 4.1 blocks, 4.1 steals and 2.7 assists as a senior last season at Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis. Stewart, she says, is helping her translate those skills to the college level.

“I’ve learned a lot about leadership, offense and defense,” she said. “If you are struggling with anything, she’ll help you out. She’s talking to you all the time on the floor. We definitely have to get in gear fast to be ready for next year, too.”

So far this season, Samuelson and Collier are each averaging about seven points in 18 minutes.

Stewart understands her responsibility to the freshmen. It’s about keeping the UConn dynasty moving forward, she said.

She’s doing all she can to help Samuelson and Collier get better and understand what the coaches want from them. Stewart said she received similar help players such a Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley.

“I want to make sure I use (my) struggles and experiences to help them to make sure they don’t struggle as much,” Stewart said. “Or if they’re down from a bad game or having a little slump or that kind of thing, that I’m the one that’s helping them get out of it.”

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