Today, we continue our look at the 2014-15 UConn men's basketball team with an evaluation of Terrence Samuel. Samuel saw increased minutes in his sophomore season, but did not consistently show the potential he demonstrated during UConn's tournament run in 2014.
2014-2015 Pre-Season Expectations
As a freshman, Terrance Samuel played double-digit minutes in five games before March, each of which resulted in UConn victories by margins of at least 24 points. Samuel barely saw any time across the rest of the regular season, paying his dues behind a number of talented UConn guards.
Playing behind guys like Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and even Lasan Kromah, Samuel had a hard time finding playing time but eventually made his presence felt in the NCAA Tournament.
UConn fans saw what Samuel can bring to the table during the win over No. 2 seed Villanova. With just over 12 minutes to go in the first half and UConn down 16-9, Napier picked up his second foul and Kevin Ollie was forced to turn to the freshman point guard with the season on the line. Samuel responded with by giving the Huskies a spark off the bench.
Samuel showed poise and aggressiveness on offense, en route to a season-high 11-points in the victory. He finished the NCAA tournament with 27 points on 57 percent shooting and 92 percent from the free-throw line. He played solid defense throughout the tournament and built some hype entering the 2014-2015 season as that spark off the bench UConn so desperately needed in their championship run.
With increased playing time and a larger sample size, it was clear that Samuel wasn't quite ready to be a consistent producer for UConn. With Napier and Kromah gone but Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton joining UConn's slew of guards, it was once again going to be a bit of a struggle for Samuel to find consistent minutes. Fortunately for him, no perimeter player other than Ryan Boatright had a consistent season, leaving Ollie no choice but to give Samuel plenty of chances. Unlike last season, when Samuel did not play at all in 10 games, the Brooklyn native played double-digit minutes in all but two games, starting eight of them.
Samuel's most glaring weakness throughout the year was his inept outside shooting. Defenses willingly sagged off of him, and rightfully so--he failed to hit a three all year in 17 attempts. Shooting is undoubtedly the area of his game needing the most improvement this off-season.
When Samuel is able to get a step on his defender, he is a solid finisher at the rim with some decent explosiveness. Terrance has the ability to get to the free throw line, something he really showed in last season's tournament, but unfortunately has a hard time getting past his defender when they play so much off of him, tempting him to pull a jump shot.
Samuel did prove to be a solid and consistent defender over the course of the year. He has good size and quickness, allowing him to guard at least three positions on the floor. This type of versatility is going to be crucial for UConn going forward, as the Huskies lose their best on-ball defender in Boatright. Everybody is going to need to pick up the slack on the defensive side of the ball, and there's no doubt in my mind Samuel is prepared for that.
Overall, Samuel was unable to find much of a rhythm offensively, with nearly a 1:1 assist to turnover ratio and 38 percent shooting on the year. His 10 points and 6 assists in the NIT against Arizona State offered a glimpse of promise to end the season. Hopefully he can consistently put in that kind of effort next season.
Expect Samuel to show improvement in his junior season, though still in a reserve role. With highly-rated guard Jalen Adams taking Boatright's place in the lineup, Samuel is going to need to step up as a leader unlike he ever has before.
With Adams joining an already crowded back court, Samuel is once again going to have to fight for playing time. There will be minutes available, but he will have to earn them by working on his offensive weaknesses during the off-season. Any semblance of improvement on his outside shooting could do wonders, and with relative uncertainty at the point guard position, this UConn team next year is going to need Samuel to step up and into more of a leadership role with the team.