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Villanova Basketball 2018 Season Recap: Jermaine Samuels

Finishing our look at the freshmen class with Jermaine Samuels.

NCAA Basketball: Columbia at Villanova Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Jermaine Samuels’ Stats

2017-18 6.1 7-28 0.25 3-16 0.188 10-16 0.625 1.2 0.3 0.1 0 0.9 0.5 1.1

The Breakdown

Expectations were definitely there for Jermaine Samuels, considering his status as Villanova’s highest-ranked member in the recruiting class of 2017, as well as being the Wildcats’ only top 100 prospect of the trio coming in. While he dazzled in high school at The Rivers School (Mass.) and got to play in the Jordan Brand Classic Regional Game alongside would-be teammates Collin Gillespie and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Samuels became a reminder of age and inexperience playing a factor into things. There was still a learning curve in adjusting to the higher level of Division I basketball--throw in new schemes, concepts, and systems--which caused a bit of a rocky transition into college. There wasn’t a shortage of effort from the former four-star prospect, he just needed more time. It’s something that gets somewhat taken for granted, considering his high ranking heading into Villanova and given the Wildcats’ recent good fortune of recruiting over the last four years, it seemed like almost every newcomer was able to simply plug-and-play.

On the bright side, given the Wildcats’ talented roster and the preference for veterans, there wasn’t an immediate pressure for Samuels to come in and contribute right away. He was able to play through mental hurdles and work out the kinks that came with enduring growing pains.

Samuels appeared in 25 games this season, including 12 of the first 13 to start the year. Things started to look up for Samuels, who had his best game of his fledgling career in Chicago. In Villanova’s Big East opener against DePaul--a 103-85 victory for the ‘Cats--Samuels logged 15 minutes, scoring 11 points and collecting three rebounds during that stretch. He was perfect on the floor, making all three of his takes, as well as a flawless 4-for-4 showing at the free throw line. Everything seemed to click for Samuels, who played loose, confident, and freely on the floor. Unfortunately for Samuels, that momentum was put on hold, as he suffered a hand injury that kept him on the bench for the next 10 games after that.

The 6-foot-5 freshman returned in early February and received extended minutes against Butler, Providence, and Xavier.

Looking Ahead

Samuels is primed for a big offseason. The freshman-to-sophomore jump in collegiate sports is usually a big one for student-athletes, as we see their bodies change and mature into better shape and they just get more comfortable working within a program. He’s admitted midway through the season that certain concepts have taken longer for him to pick up than he would have liked, but fortunately he has a great support system of coaches and teammates around him. It also helps not having immense pressure to succeed immediately. The ceiling is still high for Samuels, who certainly showed flashes of what he can be at various points in the season. His biggest adversary are the mental blocks that come his way, which he should be able to traverse—while growing more comfortable in the program.

Mikal Bridges is gone, and possibly Donte DiVincenzo as well. A three-guard set with DiVincenzo at the ‘3’ is totally not out of the equation next year, should he return. The Wildcats do bring in a pair of talented four-star, top 50 wings next season, with Brandon Slater (Fairfax, Va./Paul VI) and Cole Swider (Providence, R.I./St. Andrew’s) joining the Wildcats. Despite an influx of freshmen wings, expect Samuels to expect receive more minutes off the bench and for him to thrive with them.