LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) -- The Louisville Women's Basketball team is having a historic season. At one point some amazing players were on this team but one starter brings emotion and does everything she can to make everyone on the floor better and that is Sam Fuehring.
In so many ways Fuehring is a typical college girl.
"I wish I’d known! I would have gotten my eyelashes fixed," Fuehring said.
On the basketball court, a switch flips and Fuehring is as tough as nails.
“Sam looks for a fight...she's not afraid to mix it up,” Louisville Women’s Basketball Coach Jeff Walz said.
“Me being aggressive on the court, I think that's just having four brothers, being the youngest and stuff,” Fuehring said.
Despite being in a family of boys, Fuehring didn't automatically gravitate to sports that her brothers played.
“Before fourth grade I was a cheerleader and I was in girl scouts,” Fuehring said.
In fact, she simply stumbled on basketball by showing up to the wrong middle school for cheerleading practice.
“I walked in and there's basketball going on--not cheerleading. I walked in and the guy, my old coach, comes up to me and is like, ‘how old are you? How tall are you? What grade are you in? Where's your mother?’,” Fuehring said. “From there, I quit cheerleading, I quit girl scouts and I started playing basketball,”
It was an instant connection for Fuehring but what she didn't know is that basketball would become more than a passion.
It would become a necessity.
“Sports is everything to me. Basketball was always my background, always my backbone, it always got my mind off of things,” Fuehring said.
In the summer after her seventh-grade year, Fuehring's family got evicted from their apartment. Her parents, brothers and herself ended up moving in with her uncle into a one-bedroom apartment.
“I remember, there was no air conditioning. So, it was all five of us sleeping on two air mattresses...and we had a big fan in the room,” Fuehring said. “But there were nights where I could not fall asleep because of how hot it was. I would stay up all night. And it was difficult for me.
By the time she started high school her family had settled into their own one-bedroom apartment. By her junior year, Fuehring, now 6’3”, was one of the top basketball recruits in the nation.
But while trying to stay strong on the court, Sam would have to summon all the strength she had--in October, her family was once again homeless.
“Each eviction is like, what the heck! Why can't I just stay settled!” Fuehring said.
And then, the weight of the world fell on her's shoulders as she lost the light of her young life: her 2-year-old niece Ella died when she was pinned between two shuttle buses in a pumpkin patch.
“They extended the eviction so we had like two weeks to get out. It was like everything was just falling down,” Fuehring said. “I knew how to, to deal with the first eviction--well, no--I didn't know how to deal with the first eviction, but I knew because I’d been evicted before,” Fuehring said.
And it wasn't over: six months later, in April, Fuehring's grandmother passed away. For better or worse, Sam took all her emotion and putting into basketball.
“It always got my attention off everything. But with the deaths and stuff, I would cry even more if I’m not playing my role,” Fuehring said. “It's frustrating for me because I’m trying to do something. I'm trying to be motivated--when something doesn't go my way, it's like I’m not doing the things I need to do for my niece or my nanny.”
“She's not afraid of contact...I think she embraces it which is what separates her because there aren't a lot that like to go out there and bang and rebound and box out but Sam is willing to do that,” Walz said.
Now in her third year at Louisville, Fuehring is starting to find some stability on and off the court.
“My mentality changed. I think I learned how to take criticism cause when I was younger, freshman, sophomore year, I used to cry any time Coach Walz yelled at me. I would just cry and shut down. But this year, I don't know what it is that helped me become so coachable,” Fuehring said.
“I think she's so much more confident in herself not just as a basketball player but as a person,” Walz said. “And you can see it carry over onto the court.”
But still, in many ways, Sam says she still feels homeless as if she doesn’t have a place that feels like home.
The difference is now, there's no fear of the unknown. Instead, there is a wisdom that she's not alone.
“I can't even explain where my home is,” Fuehring said. I guess it's wherever my family is.”
Sam and the Cards are looking to keep their historic season rolling: they are still in a fight for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament and are zeroing in on a conference championship.