Beginning in late November and periodically throughout the season, I had asked Mount Vernon coach Bob Cimmino about what he saw in the future for Khalid Samuels. Cimmino believes his senior point guard was a scholarship player at some level, and that belief has only been strengthened in recent weeks as Samuels has surfaced as a major contributor in the postseason.
I brought the topic up again after Samuels played another brilliant game in Sunday’s Class AA state championship that earned him a spot on the tournament all-star team. Samuels said only Division IIs Molloy College on Long Island and St. Michael’s College in Vermont have shown interest but that he thought he had proven himself the last few weeks. Fair.
Of course, Cimmino was far less diplomatic. The coach chastised recruiters — particularly those on the Division II level — for their lack of interest in a player who has been a force against four straight sectional champs: Newburgh (Section 9), Union-Endicott (Section 4), Half Hollow Hills West (Section 11) and Jamestown (Section 6). In truth, Samuels has been Mount Vernon’s most consistent performer over that stretch, and I don’t think it’s debatable.
Out of fear of burying the lead, here’s the story in its entirety, with Cimmino’s terse words for those too “confused” or “lazy” to chase his point guard:
GLENS FALLS — Like just about each playoff game before it, Bob Cimmino’s rehash of Sunday’s state championship glowingly summarized the play of his point guard. Yet again, he noted, Khalid Samuels had scored and distributed and directed teammates with conviction, performing at a level unmistakeable to the coach who has sent more players to college programs than any in Westchester.
“He’s a definite scholarship-level player,” said Cimmino, barking above the celebratory post-game din. “I think so many of the Division II coaches are confused or lazy and they should be coming after him.”
One day soon, Cimmino will take Samuels and come after them. Now, the 5-foot-10 senior is busy. He just helped guide Mount Vernon to its first state title since 2007 and now leads the Knights into the Times Union Center on Saturday for the semifinals of the state Federation tournament.
Mount Vernon (21-5) will meet PSAL champion Boys & Girls, the No. 14-ranked team in USA Today’s Super 25.
“Khalid has been playing really great,” senior Damani Ashton said. “Even coach said it. He said we should take him to Atlantic City because he’s been on a roll. We know he’s our captain, our point guard. Even when we started out bad, he kept us under control and we played well.”
Samuels, a two-year starter, has elevated his game throughout the playoffs. He saw the need for someone to alleviate pressure from star Jabarie Hinds and decided he was the right player at the right time.
The result has been clear. He produced perhaps his best game as a Knight with 18 points and five assists in a regional victory over Newburgh. He followed with 33 points and seven steals at the Class AA state final four to earn all-star honors.
“I just knew I had to be more aggressive on offense and I had to step up,” Samuels said. “We couldn’t let Jabarie play by himself. Someone needed to step up.”
Still, Mount Vernon’s only other all-section player outside of Hinds has yet to receive a scholarship offer at any level. Only St. Michael’s College in Vermont and Molloy College on Long Island have shown interest.
“I think I’ve proved I can play,” Samuels said, “but there’s always room to improve.”
Cimmino was less diplomatic. He said upcoming camps will put Samuels in front of several college coaches, including those at the Division II level. In his eyes, Cimmino believes they should be courting his player — not the other way around.
“I have five tapes that say he’s a scholarship player,” Cimmino said. “If not a low D-I, than a D-II player for sure. I think that’s going to happen. We’ll see who’s fortunate enough to get him.
“We’ve gotten some calls, but I have weapons now. I have DVDs. If they’re not intelligent enough to be here, I can send them a tape so they can figure it out.”