SAMUELS BODY, GAME MATURES … OR DOES IT?

SAMUELS BODY, GAME MATURES … OR DOES IT?

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Jamar was the talk of K-State's media day on Oct. 29. He was bigger, stronger and more mature. Or was he? It was announced prior to tipoff of Sunday's exhibition game that Samuels had been suspended for three games for breaking team rules. To a certain degree, it was the Samuels of old coming through.

From the final buzzer to the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament in Tuscan, Ariz., Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin started a process with Jamar Samuel.

He challenged him with words: "I told him, if he hadn't redshirted that first year his career would be over. What would be doing right now had it not been for that redshirt season? Maybe that registered."

Samuels, a 6-foot-7 senior who arrived at K-State on Dec. 26, 2007, and redshirted the rest of the season when Michael Beasley and Bill Walker were in the spotlight, says, "It did register. I woke up this morning and October was almost over. I only have five months left to my college career. There's a definite sense of urgency."

Pausing, Samuels added, "I could be back home bagging groceries. There's no guarantee that I would be playing basketball at all."

Those comments were made about 10 days ago, which was followed by this update on Sunday when K-State played Fort Hays State in an exhibition game … without Samuels in uniform. He had been suspended for the first three games of the season.

"Jamar understands that student-athletes have expectations and there are consequences when you don't live up to those expectations," said Martin. "However, I have been pleased with how he has handled his obligations since this setback and I expect this to continue."

But Samuels will not be in uniform for Friday's opener against Charleston Southern, or for the Nov. 14 contest against Loyola Chicago. Then, starting on Nov. 22 against Maryland-Eastern Shore, maybe then K-State fans will see the body of the new Jamar Samuels.

Martin went as far as to say Samuels looked like a lizard at the end of last season when he ended the year at a skinny 208 pounds. To that, Samuels flashed the smile of old saying, "Now, he could have come up with a better animal than that. I need to talk to him about that!"

Now almost two weeks into preseason practices, Martin says of Samuels, "Hands down, this has been the best stretch of practice that he's had. He's been consistent."

But perhaps forecasting the future, Martin added, "I'm not going to jump through hoops yet because he's been inconsistent the last four years. He's only been different for six months, so let's wait until the end of the year and see how he has performed in the last season of his eligibility. Everything about responsibility Jamar's accepted at a higher level."

Well, until the suspension.

Samuels averaged 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds as a freshman in 2008-09, improved to 11.0 points and 4.9 boards as a sophomore when he was the Big 12's "6th Man Award" recipient, and then cooled to 8.5 points and 5.4 rebounds last year when he started 21 of KSU's 33 games.

The Wildcat coach stresses that it's not just in appearance where Samuels has improved, but in an overall commitment to excellence in the classroom, to getting stronger in the weight room, to eating habits that has resulted in an overall higher accountability.

"An athlete's engine is his body," said Martin. "If the body is not strong and efficient it can't produce. Jamar seems to have finally understood. He used to think a bag of Skittles is a healthy lunch. For all that an athlete is required to do, that's not going to work."

Samuels smiles as he differs with his coach.

"I was eating at McDonalds every day … the Curtis Kelly diet," quipped Samuels, who tipped the scales at 233 pounds 10 days ago. "Now I'm eating at Chipolet at breakfast, lunch and dinner."

With that added bulk, Martin says, "His body can absorb hits, his cuts are strong and his moves are stronger."

Samuels adds, "I'm not getting thrown around on the court. I do look like a D-I prospect. I can finish better at the rim and it takes more to box me out."

He adds of his maturity on the court, "You're not going to see me talking back to the refs this year. I promised my mom that there would be no techs (technical fouls) this year. You'll see that change in me."

Samuels, a Social Science major with a minor in Leadership, looks the part, and so does the entire Wildcat team.

Samuels calls it "the most athletic teams since I've been here. Everyone looks kind of stocky."

And he adds, that life will go on without Jacob Pullen: "Jake's my man. I love him to death, but this is going to be a solid team that's going to have contributions from everybody."

Samuels declines to say that he's "wasted" his early careers, and says he still hopes for a professional career. But he adds, "Were ever the Good Lord puts me will be totally fine with me."

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