By Mark Janssen
Might this be a Kansas State basketball team that goes the way Jamar Samuels goes?
When right, he's the single Wildcat player who can score, can rebound, can swat shots and can supply a mega-dose of energy.
That's what he "can" do. But can he do it consistently?
"I don't want to see that guy that's great every fifth game," said coach Frank Martin prior to the start of the season. "We need him to be more consistent with what he does day-in and day-out. That's his challenge."
And, it's been a challenge.
Samuels did not see ant action in the two exhibition games and was held out of the Texas Southern game and has played no more than 13 minutes in two other games.
But that was then and this is now, and Samuels has become somewhat of a stabilizer in the last three games averaging 12 points and 9 rebounds. Heading into Saturday's 3 p.m., game at Loyola-Chicago, the 6-foot-7 junior is coming off the fifth double-double of his career earlier this week against Alcorn State when he tallied a season-high of 16 points and a career-high of 14 rebounds, with seven of those snags being at the offensive end.
"He's starting to play real well, but he's still not making shots," Martin said of Samuels' 42 percent shooting touch, which included 5-of-13 against Alcorn State. "But he's playing with such energy and that's what makes him a special player. It's what we need him to do consistently."
Samuels, a Washington D.C. native and product of The Patterson School in North Carolina, has scored between eight and 16 points in the last six games he has played in, with between six and 14 rebounds in those same games.
"He has been playing that way in games and in practice for a little bit now. He has really zoned in. Some people are good players because they are great shooters, some people are good players because they know how to run a team," said Martin. "What makes Jamar a really good player is when he plays with unbelievable energy. That is his big time skill. This is an energy that our team desperately needs."
It's that potential of energy that makes Samuels an ideal player off the bench as demonstrated last year when he earned the Big 12 Conference's Sixth Man Award when he averaged 11 points and five rebounds.
Still, there were inconsistencies as demonstrated in the NCAA Tournament when he went just 6-of-23 from the field and averaged only 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in the four games that K-State played.
"I promised myself, my family, and my teammates that I would never have a tournament like that again," said Samuels. "It was probably one of the worst tournaments I ever had in my life."
This season, Martin has stressed the importance of a better overall focus with Samuels, which includes being physically, mentally and emotionally ready for each opportunity.
"You get to play 30-some games a year if you are lucky. If you cannot get excited about competing at your ultimate level 30-some times a year, you are going to have a hard life," said Martin. "I just do not understand it. We have been battling with this team from day one. We will keep battling to make us grow in that department. Right now I feel like we are in neutral. It almost cost us a game (Washington State) a couple of nights ago because we didn't play with energy in someone else's building. We just went into a funk. I do not get it."
And at times, neither does Samuels.
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