When Shabazz Napier went out early in the game against Villanova, UConn's tournament hopes seemed to be circling the drain.
Just 8 minutes into the 2nd round match-up, with the Huskies trailing 16-9, Napier picked up his second foul on a charging call. Coach Kevin Ollie tabbed freshman Terrence Samuel to go out on the floor in the season on the line. Samuel rewarded the confidence of his coach.
He created a turnover in the backcourt, sank a few free throws and hit a floater to stabilize the Huskies. Samuel would go on to play 21 minutes that evening, finishing with 11 points. UConn advanced past Villanova onto the Sweet 16 and all the way to a title.
Terrence Samuel proved to be a valuable bench piece throughout the tournament run. He scored 10 points in 23 minutes against Iowa State and he didn't miss a field goal in the Final Four.
Coming into the season, it has been fashionable to say that Terrence Samuel is a proven commodity for the Huskies. However, that may not be the case. He played sparingly in the regular season, as you would expect from an unproven freshman on a major college team. His regular season high in points was 8, which came in an 83-40 blowout of South Florida.
It's fair to account a lot of these numbers to the fact that he was playing behind Napier and Ryan Boatright, but this season's Huskies also have a deep back court. Boatright is back, potential superstar transfer Rodney Purvis is now available, Sam Cassell Jr. has joined the team and Omar Calhoun is expected to return to form. Finding minutes for Samuel is going to be challenge.
"They have to decide (who plays.) I'm going to put them in situations, every day in practice. They have two hours every day to show me what they got. It's good to have options. We want (the guards) competing each and every day. If you don't compete, you're not going to play," Ollie said.
Samuel could have a leg up on Cassell Jr. because of his experience last year, but that isn't necessarily the case as we have been hearing rave reviews on Cassell Jr. from writers and coaches alike . This year, Samuel is most likely to occupy a similar role as he did last year, as a change of pace option off the bench. His skill set lies in his ability to get to the basket and push the ball in transition. He was able to do that in the NCAA Tournament last year with resounding success.
If Terrence Samuel wants to see minutes in a crowded back court this year, he needs to maintain that form. What do you think his role will be this year?