By: Megan Wilson
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Thus far this season, Jamar Samuels provided Kansas State fans with several highlight reel performances, including monster dunks and high-flying blocked shots. A redshirt freshman, Samuels has proved to be an energetic and extremely athletic addition to the team.
Samuels arrived on campus in December of 2007 after forgoing his final year of high school eligibility. He enrolled for the fall semester with the hopes of playing last season.
Lacking experience because of his late start, Samuels went along with coach Frank Martin's decision to redshirt. Watching from the bench was difficult, but Samuels doesn't regret the decision.
“It was very difficult (to sit on the sidelines),” he said. “I thought I would come in and play automatically, but I had been out a whole semester of college basketball. So, coach Martin and I decided that redshirting was the best opportunity for me.
“(Because of the redshirt) I got used to the physical contact of the Big 12 and of college basketball, period. I gained an extra 30 pounds, so I’m feeling pretty good now.”
Samuels has K-State fans feeling pretty good as well. During the non-conference schedule, Samuels averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game. He scored in double figures nine times, including five of the last eight non-conference games. He earned his first start against Centenary.
“He’s been great. For a freshman, he’s played with a lot of poise and toughness. It’s fun to see as a coach, someone who is so young be so poised and so mentally tough,” Martin said.
“I know if he keeps growing the way he’s grown in one year, physically and mentally, and his understanding in how to play and his skill ability, he has the chance to be a special player for us.”
In addition to being recruited by K-State, Samuels was highly sought after and received scholarship offers from George Mason, Georgetown and Tennessee. George Mason and Georgetown would have been closer to Samuels’ hometown of Washington, D.C.
However, Samuels said the decision to travel to rural Manhattan was made easier by his relationship with the Wildcats' coaching staff and friendships with Kansas State players.
The 6-7, 215-pound Samuels played on the same prep school team with Kansas State sophomore Dominique Sutton. Those two also played on the same AAU team that featured sophomore Ron Anderson and Michael Beasley, who was a double-double machine as a freshman in 2007-08 in his only season at Kansas State.
“As a freshman going off to school, you don’t really know too many people,” Sutton said. “By us playing with Mike (Beasley) and Ron (Anderson) on the AAU circuit, you come in and you feel comfortable, you fit in right away, and you don’t have to be by yourself. He (Samuels) came in right away and was something special.”
Samuels described his relationship with Sutton as one that exists between brothers. Sutton agreed.
“When he has a big night, I think about the struggles he’s gone through and the struggles of us getting here last year,” Sutton said. “To see him out there in a K-State jersey and showing everybody what he can do, that’s great for him.
"I love to see him go out there and jump and scream and block shots. That’s the Jamar I know, that I’ve been around for three or four years now. Just for him to go out and be in the spotlight now is wonderful, and I love to see him do it.”
While Samuels has continued to shine on the court, his life isn’t all about basketball. He stays in touch with his family back home, works out in the weight room, and spends his free time doing what many college guys do - playing video games, hanging out with friends and his girlfriend.
What the fans are treated to on the court is the intense and energetic Samuels, a contrast to the fun and easy-going guy his friends have come to know.
Regardless of the achievements and bright future on the basketball court, one of Samuels’ biggest accomplishments may have already occurred.
“Coming to college is my biggest accomplishment,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it, so for me, just making it to college was a big achievement for me and my family.”
Fortunately, going to college may just be the tip of the iceberg for Samuels. The qualities that Martin saw in the recruiting process are the same ones that could help Samuels enjoy continued success on the court.
“His athleticism and how relentless he was when he played," Martin said when asked about the qualities that enticed college recruiters. "Those are the things that he’s done for us. As he continues to develop offensively and is just understanding how to play, because of the other qualities that he has, he has tremendous room for growth."
That growth is something Samuels hopes to continue as the season wears on. He promised that fans will have something to look forward to when they show up to watch him play.
“Fans will see what they’ve been seeing," Martin said. "Jamar can block shots. The blocked shots and the rebounding are essential. All the little hustle plays. The athleticism, of course. I would guess they want to see more of his jump shot. He brings excitement to the game.
“When he’s in the game, it’s exciting."
For Samuels and the Kansas State program, it's all been worth the wait.