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Samuels' draft ratings soar

Published:Tuesday | June 1, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Nodley Wright, Gleaner Writer

Jamaican basketballer Samardo Samuels is moving up in the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft projections before the big day, which takes place on June 24.

The decision of Samuels to leave school two years early and enter the NBA draft was seen as controversial by some and ill-advised by others.

Louisville administrative and coaching staff expressed shock and surprise at the former Muschette High School player's decision to confirm his entrance in the draft by hiring an agent, and expressed the view that he could be making a mistake but that they respected his decision.

However, any such view of the 6' 9" player who was played out of position as an undersized centre has changed dramatically with his workouts, according to a source close to the player.

"Right now his most likely spot is 20-30," the source said of the 21-year-old, who played in the ISSA/KFC High Schools Basketball League and was spotted by overseas scouts in the KFC Star Search programme.

"His stocks have really risen. This is a big jump from mid-second round to undrafted which happened after impressive showings with a number of teams such as the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves and a number of them have requested a second workout," he continued.

According to the source, Samuels has improved with every workout, which began in Miami.

"Samardo is showing that he has all the tools. In his workouts he shot phenomenally from the field and displayed adept basketball skills, qualities about him that were not widely known before.

"He is also hitting a lot of three-pointers and the feedback we are getting is that in terms of shape, size and skill readiness for the NBA, he is one the most impressive," said the source of the Louisville sophomore.

Samuels' showing so far was credited not just to his ability, but his passion for the game, dedication and work with reputed trainer Hanif Hill out of Washington DC.

"His trainer Hanif Hill, who also trained the NBA's current leading scorer, Kevin Durrant, has done fantastic work with his game which has impressed everyone. He is looking like the true power forward we know he is.

"He is moving like a guard while maintaining his post-up game. He is being described as similar to Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand, but with better ball-handling skills - a more dynamic player. Because of his skills and first step he is uncomfortable to handle for both the big guys and the smaller guys," said the man who described Samuels' progress as one of the most meteoric rises in NBA pre-draft projections.

Samuels was a third-team All-Big East selection last year, but was sometimes criticised by Louisville coach Rick Pitino for not playing strong enough around the basket. He was one of two players to start in all 33 of the team's games, joining senior guard Edgar Sosa.