Season in Review: SAMARDO SAMUELS

Season Overview: Samardo Samuels made an immediate impression on Cavaliers coaches and scouts during Summer League one year ago – as a Chicago Bull.

It was with the Bulls in Las Vegas that Samuels – once one of the most highly-recruited prep stars in the country – opened eyes as an undrafted and undersized power forward from Louisville. In Sin City, he took out some of his Draft night frustrations – saving his best game (17 points, seven boards) for a matchup with the No. 5 overall pick, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, who went 3-for-15 in that game.

Samuels was immediately recognized as one of the hardest-working Cavaliers and made the club out of Camp, but his opportunity to shine wouldn’t come for another two months. Samuels played in Cleveland’s second game – a blowout in Toronto – but registered 31 DNP-CDs in the Cavaliers’ first 35 games.

But in January, Anderson Varejao’s ankle injury pushed Samuels into Byron Scott’s rotation, and two months later, Antawn Jamison’s broken finger forced him into the starting lineup.

Although Samuels had seen some action before his first start, nothing he’d seen could prepare him for going up against his childhood idol – Tim Duncan – in a March 2 matchup with the Spurs. In that game, Samuels doubled-up with 23 points and 10 boards. Samuels would go on to notch double-figures in seven of his next eight games.

But not long after his eye-opening rookie run, Samuels suffered a pair of injuries – (to his right wrist and left groin) – that derailed his promising freshman campaign. Still, in 37 games, the 6-9 banger finished averaging 7.8 points and 4.2 boards per contest. Samuels finished 10th among rookie scorers and 8th in rebounding.

Highlight: For as good as Samuels was scoring and rebounding the basketball this season, his two biggest plays of the season might have featured the bruising 260-pounder getting run over.

Those plays occurred in one of the Wine and Gold’s most exhilarating wins of the season – a 119-115 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. In the closing seconds, having already taken a key charge against Jared Jeffries, Samuels stood his ground against a driving Carmelo Anthony, drawing his second straight charge. Luke Harangody sunk a pair of free throws to ice the win.

Samardo also finished with 15 points and six boards in that contest – a game that proved that Samuels could score and rebound, but was also willing to do the dirty work.

Lowlight: Once Samuels got his season in gear, only a pair of injuries slowed him down. He was pulled from the starting lineup, but that was more to add length (Ryan Hollins) to the first five. Samardo made just one trip to Erie – for two games in late December.

Odds and Ends: Growing up in Jamaica, Samuels didn’t start playing organized basketball until he was 12 years old, preferring soccer. (“I played forward – I liked to score,” said Samardo. “I think in my mind I was really good at soccer. But my friends are like: ‘You’re better off with basketball.’”)

By the Numbers: 12.9, 6.4 … points and rebounds Samuels averaged in 10 starts this season.

Looking forward: all the Cavaliers rookies from this past season, Samuels likely comes to next year’s Camp on the most solid footing. In his brief stint in prime time, Samuels proved that he can hang with the big dogs.

In the offseason, Samuels will work on his game and his weight. He was listed at 260, but was probably closer to 270 at different points this year. Samardo himself admitted that he needs to come back to Camp slimmed down.

“This summer, I want to get my weight down as much as possible and see how that works out for me. Playing this year when I got down to 258, I was a lot quicker. I’m going to try to get around 250, 245 and see how that works out.”

Quotable: Samuels, after being unfazed by taking back-to-back charges in a dramatic Cavs win at the Garden …

“At the end of the day, I’m a big dude. Ain’t too much gonna hurt me out there.”