Friar Basketball

Live from Wellesley, MA: A Freshman Takes Off


In a performance that was as good as any this writer has seen by a freshman over the past five years, Rivers forward Jermaine Samuels exploded in an 85-66 victory over Vermont Academy on Saturday afternoon.

“Exploded” may not be accurate, rather he came off of the bench and methodically picked apart a young, but talented Vermont team, scoring 20 points in the first half (only 16 minute halves) and finished with 30 in the game.

Not familiar with Samuels yet? You’re not alone. True recruiting diehards have been reading about him for the past year or two. The 6’6 Massachusetts native is regarded as one of the best freshmen in a tremendous New England class, and after seeing him in person for the first time today it’s hard to imagine any is better. Living in the same town as Samuels, I’d read a lot about him prior to today and he more than exceeded my already high expectations. This is an absolute star in the making.

The Providence staff is well aware of Samuels — according to the New England Recruiting Report’s Junior Elite Basketball, PC’s staff is one of the few to have offered him a scholarship already (along with URI and Dartmouth).

It wasn’t that he put up ridiculous numbers, but the efficiency and ease in which he did it. He didn’t take a bad shot all day, he passed very well, finished four or five reverse layups, swished the only three pointer he attempted (contested) and rebounded (7 boards at the half) on the offensive and defensive glass.

His pure skill level is amazing for such a young player, and suddenly a Rivers team that finished 13-10 last season can step up a weight class and roll a NEPSAC Class AA team like Vermont. They are undefeated early.

Samuels isn’t the only impressive freshman on his team. Point guard Azar Swain is another high upside youngster for rising Rivers.

Yet Samuels (the top ranked freshman in the region per Hoop Dreams Magazine, edging out a pair of Rhode Island natives in Kimani Lawrence and Thomas Murphy), was the story on this day.

It won’t be the last time.

Vermont’s Missing Pieces

Rivers did benefit from the absence of a pair of big pieces — 6’8 Sedee Keita (a high major forward) and 6’7 KJ Santos, another high level forward. Both are 2016 recruits who have offers from Big East schools.

Impressive for Vermont was 2016 newcomer Bruce Brown, a 6’3 guard who was on Providence’s campus this summer. The BABC off-guard is a terror taking the ball to the rim and lives to draw contact.

Vermont also features 7’2 Tyler Jackson, a wide-bodied big man who is a longer term project. Providence had reportedly shown some level of interest there, but to what extent is unclear. He’s massive, but the game moved a bit fast for him today.

Cushing Comes Back

After the performance of Samuels, it was easy to forget that one of the reasons I made the trip was to see Jalen Adams for the first time this year. Cushing is the defending Class AA champions, and return a solid core with Adams, Syracuse-bound point guard Kaleb Joseph and freshman Kimani Lawrence — a Providence native.

What initially stands out about Cushing this year is just how small they are with Andrew Chrabascz off to Butler.

They jumped out to an 8-0 lead, and the game had the look of a blowout in the opening minutes, but Champlain (a prep out of Canada) just buried three after three and led 28-22 at halftime. Adams led them in scoring at the intermission with eight points (I had him 3-6), but Cushing appeared to be sleep walking through the early start — leaving shooters wide open and struggling to find answers to a 2-3 zone — as an upset seemed likely with Champlain leading 50-42 with five minutes remaining.

Then Joseph got hot. The one-time Friar recruit had struggled with his jumper throughout, but got it going when it mattered most. Cushing went on a 12-0 run over the game’s next two minutes, thanks to four 3 pointers — three coming from Joseph — to give them a 54-50 lead.

Champlain cut it to 54-53 with a three pointer with just over two minutes left, and then came up with a steal and layup to take the lead, but Cushing scored the game’s final seven points to close it out.

Adams had been scorching coming in (he opened the season with 29/11/10 against Tilton), but took a secondary role in this one. I had him for three blocks and three steals, but he didn’t get many good looks against Champlain’s zone.




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