MASON, Ohio — Sammie Puisis enjoys playing ping-pong, works as the vice president of the Mason High School student bank and is a sought-after autograph from grade-school students.
The 18-year-old senior also happens to be the first Mason High School basketball player (male or female) to be named a McDonald's All American.
“It’s really rewarding when you see someone that’s worked that hard and has just been all about team all the time to get one of the highest honors you can get in high school basketball,” Mason assistant coach Jere Clark said.
The 6-foot-1 Puisis is one of just 24 players in the country to be selected to play in the 18th McDonald’s All American Girls Game March 27 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The game will air live on ESPN2 at 5 p.m.
Puisis is the area’s most recent female player to be named to the prestigious all-star game since former Princeton standout Kelsey Mitchell (2014).
When Puisis found out she was selected Jan. 24 after leaving the Comets’ practice, tears filled her eyes.
“It means the world honestly because there is so much talent out there and to be chosen from the nation’s top 24 girls – it’s an incredible accomplishment,” Puisis said. “Obviously I know I work hard but I have to give so much credit to my coaches and teammates and obviously my family. I couldn’t have done it without any of them.”
That selfless approach is a staple of the two-time Greater Miami Conference player of the year. Puisis averages 19.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals and and 1.3 assists. She has shot 40 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
“Sammie is the consummate teammate,” said Ohio Girls’ Basketball Report Associate Director Bryce McKey. “She has the ability to quietly hold a team together with her willingness to motivate and encourage those around her. Having had the pleasure of coaching Sammie during the travel season, the one thing I could always count on was that she was always going to give her best.”
Although she is known for being a basketball standout, those who know Puisis say she also embraces a responsibility to be a positive influence as a student-athlete among her friends, classmates and school staff.
“I always try to be as friendly as I can,” said Puisis, one of six siblings. “I just do anything I can to put smiles on people’s faces.”
Ed Puisis, Sammie’s father, recalls a time when another student approached his daughter at a sporting goods store to laud her performance in a recent game.
Sammie felt bad she didn’t know the student, but the point was clear: She can have an impact on others with her demeanor.
The same could be said when Puisis was hanging out with some Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) teammates before her junior year. The teammates marveled at the family home in Mason, but Puisis was quick to correct them saying the family had an abundance of blessings instead of economic success as the first priority.
“We hope that there will be kids that will come behind her and will recognize not only what she’s about but what our program is about in regards to trying to churn kids out that are not known just for their athleticism but they are known for what they do for the community and other people,” Mason head coach Rob Matula said.
Puisis has certainly made an impact among the youth basketball players around Mason.
Clark looked across the court during a game last season and saw a group of youngsters wearing their hair in a braided ponytail like Puisis, who has written letters of encouragement to the grade-school players.
That’s no surprise to Mason High School guidance counselor Tony Affatato, who has worked with Puisis and says her influence is obvious on the campus and beyond.
Puisis has attended junior high games and was a guest speaker at the banquet for the sixth grade team last season.
Affatato’s daughter, Gabby, was among the seventh graders in attendance for a recent game in which Puisis broke the program’s all-time career 3-pointers mark (190) that was held by 2001 graduate Clark (Issenmann). The seventh graders held up signs bearing No. 190.
“My daughter in particular has come to really adore and love her and sees her as a huge role model in her life,” Tony Affatato said. “And I think anytime that happens and you have those interactions – it just speaks volumes of Sammie as a person.”
On Jan. 26, Puisis continued to add to her legacy when she scored 40 points at Colerain. That broke a program tie for most points in a single game that she previously held with Michelle Munoz (38 points).
Puisis appreciates the accolades but is focused on being a good teammate as the tournament approaches.
Mason (12-4, 9-2 GMC) plays host to Sycamore (8-8, 6-4) Friday and then Lakota West (16-2, 11-1) on Saturday.
“She just would never be satisfied for not being the best and she has a really good family to support her,” Clark said. “All that work and dedication we tell our players that it takes to be the best – she did that. This isn’t something that she just walked onto the court and she was just naturally talented. She is unbelievably talented but at the end she put the work behind it to get what she deserves.”