As the season approaches, so does the beginning of Shadeen Samuels’ farewell tour, as it is a year surrounded by excitement thanks to a Pirate squad being led by the projected best player in the conference.
Samuels is the most lethal player on any Big East court for a reason. Her awards shelf is likely going to see renovations after the season to fit more of her accolades, but she is already as accomplished of a women’s basketball player can be – 2019-20 Big East Preseason Player of the Year, 2019-2
Cheryl Miller Award Watch List for best small forward in the country, 2018-19 All-Big East First Team, 2018-19 Big East Scoring Champion, and 2018-19 Big East Most Improved Player.
As she enters her final season playing in Walsh Gymnasium, coach Anthony Bozzella can still remember what is was like when the Ossining, N.Y. native first touched the hardwood in South Orange and how her work ethic has transformed her.
“The plays work a lot better when you have someone like Shadeen,” Bozzella said. “I am just proud of her because she is a young lady that averaged four points a game as a freshman, averaged 7.5 points a game as a sophomore, and she just worked hard all the time. To receive [Big East Preseason Player of The Year] is an indication of how much she has worked, and I am very proud of her for that.”
The immense time spent on improving her game will put even more pressure on the Samuels’ shoulders, as the number two and number three scorer from last season are no longer on the team. Samuels is also the only player to return who shot at least 90 shots behind the arc and converted on at least 35% of those threes. Other than Kaela Hilaire, who had 39 attempts from three, no other returnee had more than 15. She is also the only threat from the charity stripe for Seton Hall, as she is also the only returnee to at least shoot 70% from the free throw line. As if Samuels did not have enough to make up already, she is the only current Pirates to have over 75 assists from last year, despite being a natural three on the court.
She was in nearly the same position that men’s basketball star Myles Powell was in last year. Set to captain the Pirates’ ship, Powell had to take over for a youthful team depleted of its senior core. Now, after an All-Big East season and guiding the Pirates to a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, Powell was named the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, only igniting more similarities between the pair.
“Both Shadeen and Myles represent not only great basketball players, but great people,” Bozzella said. “Shadeen Samuels is a tremendous lady on and off the court. It is great that two great people are representing the awards. One young lady, one young man. Both seniors who have been here all four years. Going through the growing pains as a freshman, all the way to be leaders as seniors.”
Samuels must carry the program for hope at postseason prosperity, and with the acceleration of her progression, Samuels has the opportunity to have the greatest single season in Seton Hall women’s basketball history.
Robert Fallo can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @robert_fallo.