With Brandon Jennings gone to Europe, Jamaican Samardo Samuels topped the 2008 High School class.
Samuels took his talents to possibly to the best basketball state in America; and that state wasn't North Carolina, who's Tarheels was at the top of his list.
It was the basketball state of Kentucky, but he wouldn't be joining a nation of blue, but in fact a sea of red at Louisville, the very college that led his list.
Overseas, Samardo bullied defenders. The way he would handle the opposing players in the paint amazed scouts, but what really caught peoples attention is how great Samardo was doing in a sport that he was relatively new too.
The only concern was his clumsiness and his build(as far as strength). Teammates would laugh at him because he couldn't do a push up or catch the ball, in basketball that is pretty important.
"When I first started, I played Soccer, I was new to basketball," Samuels Stated "It felt like that this was not the place for me, I didn't fit in." he added.
Aside that, Samardo would bring pure talent to Louisville. The only thing doubted of him was his ability to move well with the ball as well as shooting it, being that he was the exact same size height wise as Louisville Jr. Forward Earl Clark(6'9) who's ball handling ability and shooting ability for his position made him high on the NBA draft list. With entering Louisville Samardo would be placed on the depth chart as the starting Center.
Samardo started pretty slow his first few games for Louisville but showed exactly what scouts thought he would be, at some points. When Samardo would dunk the ball he would throw the ball down with extreme force as if no one was around him and he was showing off, that wasn't the case when it came down to posting up defenders in the 2008-09 season.
Cardinal fans, as well as myself, claimed Samardo to be lazy and lack competitive nature which was MUCH needed in a year where it counted. A year where the Louisville Cardinals were expected to make the Final Four and possibly National Championship with the return of Clark and Senior slashing teammate Terrence Williams. A year where the Big East would turn out to be the toughest conference ever in NCAA basketball.
Some effort and strength would really be useful when going up against 7'0 Hasheem Thabeet from UCONN and 270 lb. PITT Forward DeJuan Blair.
As the season progressed, Samuels would make a name for himself, being the third best player on the team and being the third man of the NCAA "Big Three" being Terrence Williams, Earl Clark, and Samardo Samuels.
Samardo had his moments in his Freshman season and turned out to be a very important role player, probably the best role player behind team stars Clark and Williams.
After helping his team win the Big East regular season, he did in fact the same in the Big East Tournament which Louisville won. He then readied himself for the NCAA Tournament that following the conference tournament where the Louisville Cardinals were the Overall #1 seed entering only to be upset by #2 seed Michigan State in the Elite 8.
Losing Terrence Williams and Earl Clark to the following NBA Draft, the spotlight shadowed the soon to be Sophomore Samuels as eventual team leader.
Thankfully for Samardo, Coach Rick Pitino named Seniors Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith team captains for that year, and helped take pressure off of the young man.
Because of the departure of former team leader Williams and Clark who mentored Samuels the year before, discipline to Samardo wasn't there. Samardo felt comfortable enough with the team that he could make mistakes and get away with it. Comparisons from Louisville fans included former Cardinal Derrick Caracter, who lacked both discipline and effort, just like Samuels.
Samardo did lead the team in scoring and rebounding in the 2009-10 season(15 pts, 7 Rbs) and his defining game came against Notre Dame scoring a career high 36 points and fouling out FOUR defenders and blocking the Irish final shot in a double over time victory.
Just the Samardo that Louisville fans wanted to see, just a year late. Samardocontinued his dominated ways but his final game as a college athlete resulted in a first round loss to Cal in that seasons tournament, he would declare for the following draft.
Speculations that fueled Samardo's departure included that he didn't like the hustle of College Basketball to financially helping out him and his family in Jamaica, no one really knows.
But I was thinking in my "Me" time right now, what would this Cardinal team be like with Samardo who would be a Senior this year? If he would of came back for last season he would of easily dominated the Big East just imagine him now, he would arguably be the best big man in the Big East, and possibly the country.
With that could of brought along a possible top 3 or 2 pre-season seeding in the nation for the Louisville Cardinals and maybe get a little bit more love from the media that HATES Louisville.
Look, I hate playing the "what if?" game but in this case it is pretty fun to think about, and now the more I think about it, I start to tear a little bit and break down inside. This team would be spectacular had Sam Sam stayed.
What do you guys think.
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