Sam Fuehring

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Playing the Cardinals won't be easy. Sam Fuehring is making sure of that.

"I would love for people to hate to play against me," the senior forward said.

Fuehring, a New Jersey native, is known for her gritty and sometimes emotional play. But, as Fuehring admits, it's mostly an act.

"I let my emotions show a lot more on the court than outside of basketball," Fuehring said. "I feel like, outside of basketball, you'd want to be my friend."

Fuehring doesn't take it easy on opponents, in part, because she's never had it easy herself. As a child, her family had trouble finding a permanent living situation, and they were evicted from several homes.

"It felt like I was living out of bags at one point," Fuehring said.

Then, shortly before arriving at U of L, Fuehring's 2-year-old niece Ella was killed in a bus accident. The two had been inseparable.

"It was heartbreaking," Fuehring said. "I don't think I've felt pain like that before. When I heard it, I just dropped to my knees and couldn't breathe."

Six months later, Fuehring's grandmother passed away. It all felt like too much for the college freshman.

"I just wanted to do everything for them, and things just weren't going right," Fuehring said. "So, I would just get really angry and shut down. I wasn't healed. I wasn't feeling good."

Time has helped. Though the pain of losingĀ Ella is still there, the memories have become much sweeter.

"Her birthday, 3/2/13, I see (those numbers) all the time," Fuehring said. "My mom sees it. When I play basketball, I'll see it up on the scoreboard at times. It's not a coincidence. She's letting me know she's there."

She's right there for what could be a special season for Fuehring and her team as they try to build on last year's Final Four appearance.

"What I went through definitely shaped me as a basketball player, because it created the person I am," Fuehring said. "(I'm) very hardworking, never giving up, and I play for my family, too."

U of L begins postseason play on Friday in Greensboro, N.C. The path to a title won't be easy, but Fuehring has proven she's OK with that.

"She's as hard-headed as I am," head coach Jeff Walz said. "We could sit out there in the middle of the floor and just beat heads against each other, and it would have been a perfect day of practice for her."

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Sports Reporter