Growing Up ... Samardo Samuels

They’ve always had talent, but what were the Cavaliers like before they became gigantic and famous?

Cavaliers big man, Samardo Samuels, didn’t start playing basketball until he was 12, and he did that over 2,600 miles away from Cleveland on the island of Jamaica. After two years under Rick Pitino at Louisville, the rugged rookie is part of this season’s baptism by fire. Like any first-year player, Samuels has had some rough patches, but still managed to notch 16 points this past Sunday in Orlando.

In today’s Growing Up, Samardo talks about his first sports love, his adjustment to the States and, of course, his first dunk …

I moved from … the Island of Jamaica to Jamaica Queens when I was 14.

I only played … two years of basketball in Jamaica. I started playing I when was 12 and I got a scholarship when I was 14.

What I wanted to play … back then was soccer.

I played .. forward – I liked to score. I think in my mind I was really good at soccer. But my friends are like: “You’re better off with basketball.”

I didn’t start bulking up … until I started playing basketball. I was like really tall and skinny. You’d look at pictures of me back then and say, “Where the hell did he get all that weight at?”

I had my growth spurt … when I started playing basketball. My friends said, ”Basketball is starting to stretch you.” Ever since I started playing, I just kept growing and growing.

When I was 15 … I was 6-6. But when I came over, I realized you gotta be REALLY tall to play basketball here.

But I knew that my great grandfather … was 7-3, so I thought I’d be in good shape. My dad’s side of the family is 6-6 and up.

I originally went … to a school on Long Island called Our Savior New American. I went there for a year and within that year I kinda made a name for myself as a freshman and went to a bunch of camps that summer.

When I was 15 turning 16 … St. Benedict in Northern New Jersey came into the picture.

I was living with … a host family in Long Island. My mom didn’t like that: that I had to live with a family. So St. Benedict’s Prep came along, which was a boarding school. My mom liked that better – a boarding school with other kids. So I transferred there in my sophomore year.

St. Benedict’s is right up the road … from where the Nets play in Newark, New Jersey.

My best coach coming up was … Coach Hurley at St. Benedict. I was raw as a freshman, I could jump, I was physical. But he taught me the game when I got there. We were winning. We were fundamentally sound.

I didn’t even … play center in high school. I was the forward. The center was 6-10. We had Tristan Thomas, who’s at Texas right now.

I definitely remember … my first dunk. I was a young boy, too. My eyes, were closed and everything!

I got a fast break … and I went up and my coach was yelling “DUNK IT!” Everything seemed like it was in slow motion. My eyes were closed and I went up and I jammed it with two hands!

I was about … … 14 years old. Everybody was jumping up and down, “Samardo dunked!”

And ever since then … that’s all I want to do.