As the Seton Hall women’s basketball team enters its final month of regular season play, the group will need to dig deep to piece together a strong run and vault up the standings.
However, the Pirates will have to do this without their leader in points, rebounds and minutes in Donnaizha Fountain, who was left the program on Jan. 21. So far, the Pirates have fared well without Fountain in the lineup, going 2-1 since her departure.
In order to continue that pace, though, the Pirates will need to get major contributions from other members of the squad.
One player who has shown growth this season has been sophomore forward Shadeen Samuels.
In her first year as a mainstay in the starting lineup, Samuels is having a breakout season. She currently sits fourth on the team with 7.2 points per game, up almost a whole three points from her 4.3 last season.
Samuels has not limited her impact to the offensive end though, as she is high on the leaderboard, or leads overall, in many defensive categories. With Fountain no longer on the team, Samuels leads the Pirates in rebounding with 5.8 per game. She is also second on the team with 14 blocks and has managed to come away with 24 steals to date.
After a game in mid-November, coach Tony Bozzella levied some high praise for Samuels’ defensive prowess.
“I think Shadeen [Samuels] is one of the best defensive forwards that I’ve ever coached,” Bozzella said.
Despite the improved numbers offensively and defensively, Samuels says she is not doing anything differently on the court.
“I think it’s more just a mental thing,” Samuels said. “I don’t want to have the same year as we did last year with losing. As a team, the mindset that we all have has been changing.”
Last year’s losing season was foreign to Samuels, as winning has been in her blood for as long as she could remember. While at Ossining High in Ossining, N.Y., Samuels helped bring four straight state championships back to the quaint town overlooking the Hudson River.
Throughout her high school career, Samuels was in the middle of the action, culminating in multiple most valuable player honors and the “Miss Basketball” title in her senior year.
Despite her success at the high school level, Samuels tries not to look back at those days too much, as the six-foot forward would rather focus on the task at hand at Seton Hall.
“High school is totally different,” Samuels remarked. “It’s harder for me because in high school, I didn’t know what it was like to lose. Coming to Seton Hall, you can’t win every game.”
Samuels’ ultimate goal is to help bring Seton Hall’s program the winning formula that her high school once had. With Fountain gone, she sees a chance to enhance her leadership role and skills.
“I think that now it’s my turn to lead and help everyone else step up and do what they can to help us win,” Samuels said.
Leadership skills aside, Samuels also mentioned how she wants to become more comfortable shooting the ball in game situations, as she more posts up in the low-post more often than not.
“I’ve been trying to get in the gym more and take some shots,” Samuels said. “Some teams we play tend to leave me open and I want to knock down those shots.”
If Samuels can find a way to knock down shots consistently, she’ll become a dual asset on both ends of the floor and one of the most dangerous options at Bozzella’s disposal. On the back of a career-year already, Samuels can solidify herself as one of Seton Hall’s most valuable players with a little more offensive output.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @KMKTNF.