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Samuels big for K-State on senior day

By Cole Manbeck

Ernestine Samuels, the mother of Kansas State’s Jamar Samuels, could prove to be a key difference-maker down the stretch as the Wildcats head into the Big 12 tournament and more than likely the NCAA tournament.

“To be honest with you, the games his mom has been to this year, you’d probably find the best games he has played all year,” K-State coach Frank Martin said.

Seriously, there might be something to this. Ernestine attended the Wildcats’ win at Virginia Tech earlier this year and witnessed her son score 17 points and grab 14 rebounds. She was in the crowd during the loss to Kansas in Manhattan, when Samuels scored 20 points to go along with 12 rebounds. And then the real kicker came on Saturday.

Ernestine’s flight was delayed Saturday morning, causing her to get caught up in traffic on I-70 en route to Manhattan to walk her son out to center court for senior day. She was unable to make it in time for the ceremony, so Samuels was escorted to the middle of the court by Anya Martin, the wife of Frank Martin.

It’s not as if Samuels was bad in the first half as he waited for his mother’s arrival — he scored four points and notched six boards in the opening period. But once he saw his mom in her seat at the start of Saturday’s second half, Samuels’ game took off to another level.

“Second half I saw her and I got a little excited,” Samuels said.

The senior scored 13 second-half points on 6-of-9 shooting, collected another six more rebounds to finish with 17 points and 12 rebounds, marking the 13th double-double of his K-State career.

And get this: Samuels, who has committed more fouls than any player in school history, and owns the No. 1 and No. 3 all-time foul counts for single seasons, didn’t commit one on Saturday.

“I still don’t believe I didn’t get a foul today,” said Samuels, who has recorded a double-double in four of K-State’s last six games. “I still don’t believe that. They were talking about it in the locker room — all the coaches — they said I should have just fouled the ref to be on the stat line.”

“It took five years but we got him to play a whole game without committing a foul,” Martin quipped. “Are you kidding me?”

So it would seem that Ernestine’s presence could be the Wildcats’ secret weapon.

“I might have to kidnap (Ernestine) and keep her in town for about a month here,” Martin joked.

No kidnapping will need to occur this week, as Ernestine will be in attendance at the Big 12 tournament

All kidding aside, this was a fitting end in the final home game for Samuels, who is just one of four players in school history to record more than 1,200 points and 600 rebounds. He showed the bright smile he possesses on several occasions on Saturday, and attempted to hold back his emotions as he was recognized before tipoff.

Samuels has grown up immensely during his four-plus years at K-State — both on the court and off of it. Saturday’s performance was a fitting farewell, and it’s the kind of scenario a senior hopes for in the final home contest — getting a win, producing in that victory, and getting the opportunity to leave the game to a standing ovation with a couple minutes left on the clock because the game is in hand. That’s what occurred on Saturday.

But there were some early butterflies.

“My emotions before tipoff, I was very nervous,” Samuels said. “This is probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life, just knowing I had to go out with a bang.”

The ability to handle those nerves, plus the adversity of finding out his mom wouldn’t be in Bramlage in time for the start of the game, is symbolic of the maturation of Samuels.

“There are different relationships with every player you coach, you have different experiences with them and you travel different paths with them,” Martin said. “You go on those paths trying to get to the finish line so when they’re done they’re prepared to take on life. Where he was at a year ago to where he’s at right now — it’s night and day. I don’t think I’ve ever been as proud of somebody for the maturity and growth that he has displayed over the last year.”

Those words take on a significant meaning to Samuels. So did Saturday’s standing ovation as the 6-foot-7 forward headed to the bench with 2:33 remaining.

“I thought I was going to cry, one tear — it was like right there but it went back up,” he said. “I can’t say anything more about the fans here. I really do appreciate everyone here that stuck with me through it all.”

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