UConn freshman Terrence Samuel showing plenty of promise
HARTFORD - Terrence Samuel was given the keys to the UConn car Monday night, albeit on a safe and smooth road against Division III Concordia.
Even in a comfortable environment, the freshman point guard showed great promise, notching a double-double with 10 points and 12 assists in a team-high 28 minutes. His performance opened the eyes of head coach Kevin Ollie, who spoke enthusiastically about Samuel's efforts in his first days at the school.
"Terrence played incredible and has been doing it the whole preseason," Ollie said. "To have a double-double, with 12 assists, it really shows his patience, really shows his vision and it's good to have that in my back pocket."
With Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright firmly entrenched as the starting guards, Samuel knows his role this season will come in a backup role, a position he is embracing.
"Coach Ollie told me that he needs me to be a difference maker," Samuel said. "The first game (against Southern Connecticut), I had some nerves, but not anymore. I feel ready and excited."
And excited to help his older teammate go out on a high note.
"Shabazz told me that I mean a lot for this season," Samuel said. "I want to help him win a championship his senior year."
For Samuel, a Brooklyn native, to play such a vital part, he needs to build on the potential he displayed Monday. He showed glimpses of the traits New York City point guards are known for: relentless drives to the hoop and precise passing.
"(On Monday), coach Ollie gave me a great chance to play," said Samuel, who stands at 6-foot-4 and hit five of his eight shots. "He wanted to evaluate how I would play in a real game. I wanted to use this chance to get guys open shots and get to the paint."
Samuel says Ollie has preached to him that he will be a difference-maker this season. With that positive encouragement, Samuel has not stopped working since arriving on campus.
"I have been working on my handle and shot every day," Samuel said. "When I first got here, I had a lot of turnovers in practice and in pickup (games). My defense has gotten better and my decision-making is a lot better."
Despite his age and experience, Ollie is looking for him to take another role, too.
"All of our guys, if they are good enough to play, they are good enough to lead," Ollie said.
While the Huskies do have upperclassmen leadership in the backcourt, anticipate Samuel playing a big part this season.
His first official game in a UConn uniform comes Friday night in his hometown of Brooklyn against Maryland at the Barclays Center.
"Growing up, the idea (of Brooklyn having an arena) was something we never envisioned," said Samuel, who attended Victory Collegiate High School. "It was always about Madison Square Garden. It's really cool now that people in Brooklyn have a chance to see players like LeBron and Carmelo right at home."
When he takes the floor Friday, Samuel will have plenty of support in the stands.
"It's going to be great," Samuel said. "I'm going to have a lot of friends and family and my high school coaches there. I played (at Barclays Center) last year in the Jordan Brand Classic and it was a lot of fun. I can't wait for Friday."