Jul 11, 2010, 9:00 AM EDT
Everyone knows Omar Samhan was an extremely productive college player. At 6-11′, 265 pounds, Samhan was able to simply overwhelm most of his college opponents by using his size, strength, and extremely advanced package of skills.
Samhan’s college numbers are impressive; he averaged 21.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game during his senior season at St. Mary’s, led all college players in PER, and burst into the national consciousness when he scored 61 points in the first two rounds of last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Despite Samhan’s production at the college level, there have always been doubts about his athleticism, conditioning, and ability to produce in the NBA. Thanks to those concerns and a disappointing performance in St. Mary’s final NCAA tournament game, Samhan went undrafted this year.
The Dallas Mavericks assigned Samhan to their summer league roster this year, and Samhan knows he only has a couple games to prove himself if he wants to be playing in the NBA instead of Europe next season.
Samhan’s first summer league game didn’t go so well. Samhan admitted after the game that his nerves affected him, and he never was able to get into the flow of the action. Samhan had trouble establishing post position, looked rushed when he got the ball, and had trouble staying in front of his man on defense. As a result, Samhan ended up with more fouls (5) than points (4) during his 19 minutes of play. It wasn’t the type of game that NBA scouts and GMs were looking for, and Samhan knew it.
On Saturday, Samhan bounced back from his shaky debut and showed those in attendance the package of skills that made him one of the most productive big men in college basketball last season. The Mavericks went to Samhan in the post on their first possession of the game, and Samhan responded with a nice turnaround jumper over Jordan Hill.
In Samhan’s own words, that first basket “broke the ice” for him — After he hit the shot, much of the first half turned into the Samhan show. Samhan faced Hill up and scored on him with a righty dribble. He hit two straight pick-and-pop jumpers from the left side of the court, and looked very confident in his stroke — Samhan said after the game he’s trying to extend his range to the three-point line, and the work he’s putting in shows.
Samhan also showed some nice passing ability from the low block, was active on the boards, and did a good job defending Jordan Hill in the post. Samhan’s best play of the day came on the fast break, where Samhan is generally the least effective. While running the floor, Samhan caught a pass at full speed, started to go into a spin, stopped himself on a dime while keeping one foot down, and calmly reverse pivoted back to his right hand for an easy basket.
Samhan was less effective after taking a hard fall in the first half; he sprung up and clapped his hands after he went down, but that was because Samhan knows he doesn’t have the luxury of asking out of any games. It was a hard fall, and Samhan admitted after the game that the blow to his head affected his play.
Samhan’s lack of foot speed was also an issue, and he gave up a few easy threes because he was slow to close out. Samhan has the talent and touch to provide some scoring off the bench, but he still has a lot of work to do on his conditioning before he can hope to play significant minutes against the NBA’s athletic big men. The good news for Samhan’s supporters is that he appears ready to put in that work. Samhan may be the slowest player in summer league, but he was moving faster than any other Maverick during pre-game warmups on Friday, and the way he toughed out his head injury on Saturday was impressive.
Samhan’s body isn’t NBA-ready yet, but there may be a roster spot available for somebody with Samhan’s combination of size, skill, savvy, and willingness to work if Samhan can continue to play the way he did during the first half of Saturday’s game.
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