Oct. 27, 2011
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By Mark Janssen
From the final buzzer to the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament in Tucson, Ariz., Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin started a process with Jamar Samuels.
He challenged him with words: “I told him, if he hadn’t redshirted that first year, his career would be over. What would he be doing right now had it not been for that redshirt season? Maybe that registered.”
Samuels, a 6-foot-7 senior who arrived at K-State on Dec. 26, 2007, and redshirted the rest of the season when Michael Beasley and Bill Walker were in the spotlight, admits, “It did register. I woke up this morning and October was almost over. I only have five months left to my college career. There’s a definite sense of urgency.”
Pausing, Samuels added, “I could be back home bagging groceries. There’s no guarantee that I would be playing basketball at all.”
And, Martin went as far as to call Samuels, who finished the season last year at a skinny 208 pounds, names. He said he looked like a lizard.
To that, Samuels flashed the smile of old saying, “Now, he could have come up with a better animal than that. I need to talk to him about that!”
Now almost two weeks into preseason practices, Martin says of Samuels, “Hands down, this has been the best stretch of practices that he’s had with us. He’s been consistent.”
But Martin also added, “I’m not going to jump through hoops yet because he’s been inconsistent the last four years. He’s only been different for six months, so let’s wait until the end of the year and see how he has performed in this last season of his eligibility. Everything about responsibility Jamar has accepted at a higher level.”
Samuels averaged 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds as a freshman in 2008-09, improved to 11.0 points and 4.9 boards as a sophomore when he was the Big 12’s Six Man of the Year award recipient, and then cooled to 8.5 points and 5.4 rebounds last year when he started 21 of K-State’s 33 games.
The Wildcat coach stresses that it’s not just in appearance where Samuels has improved, but in an overall commitment to excellence in the classroom, to getting stronger in the weight room, to eating habits that have resulted in an overall higher accountability to this Wildcat team of 2011-12.
“An athlete’s engine is his body,” said Martin. “If the body is not strong and efficient, the car’s not going to run. Jamar seems to have finally understood that. He used to think a bag of Skittles was a healthy lunch. For all that an athlete is required to do, that’s not going to work.”
Samuels smiles as he differs with his coach.
“No, I was eating at McDonalds every day. The Curtis Kelly diet,” quipped Samuels, who tipped the scales at 233 pounds on Wednesday. “Now I’m eating at Chipotle at breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
With that added bulk, Martin says, “His body can absorb hits, his cuts are stronger and his moves are stronger.”
Samuels adds, “I’m not getting thrown around on the court. I do look like a D-I prospect. I can finish better at the rim and it takes more to box me out.”
He also adds of his maturity on the court, “You’re not going to see me talking back to the refs this year. I promised my mom that there would be no techs (technical fouls) this year. You’ll see that change in me.”
Samuels, a social science major with a minor in leadership, looks the part, and so does the entire Wildcat team.
Samuels calls it “… the most athletic team since I’ve been here. Everyone looks kind of stocky.”
And he adds that Kansas State basketball life will go on without Jacob Pullen: “Jake’s my man. I love him to death, but this is going to be a solid team that’s going to have contributions from everybody.”
Samuels declines to say that he’s “wasted” his early K-State years, and says he still hopes for a professional career. But he adds, “Wherever the Good Lord puts me will be totally fine with me.”
Watch Some Hoops on Saturday
Kansas State basketball fans are encouraged to drop by Bramlage Coliseum Saturday between 12:30 and 1:15 to watch Frank Martin’s team practice prior to the Oklahoma football game.
Doors to the northwest and northeast entrances of Bramlage Coliseum will open at 12:15 p.m. Seating will be available on the west side of the arena. Due to the football game, the east and west parking lots at Bramlage Coliseum will be reserved for donors to the Ahearn Scholarship Fund holding football parking passes.
Admission is free, but fans are encouraged to bring a “Welcome Back” donation item for the USO at Fort Riley. These items include individually-wrapped, non-perishable snacks, wash cloths and individually-wrapped toothbrushes and will be used to create homecoming kits.
There will be collection boxes located inside the gates near the entrances for fans to drop-off their donation items. The men’s basketball team has a partnership with the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Riley, which just last week returned from a year-long deployment.
Fans will also have the chance to pick up a men’s basketball roster card as well as men’s and women’s basketball team posters and schedule cards on the concourse.
Games Coming Up
The Wildcats play their lone exhibition game at 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 6 against Fort Hays State, while the season officially tips off at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11 against Charleston Southern.
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