Friday March 26th, 2010

HOUSTON -- A writer friend who covered Saint Mary's last weekend in Providence, R.I., texted to let me know that I would have the easiest job in sportswriting this week. All I needed to do, he wrote, was place my digital voice recorder in the general vicinity of Saint Mary's center Omar Samhan, transcribe the interview and write a few transitions.

My friend was half right. Omar doesn't need transitions.

The following quotes tumbled from the tattooed mouth of Samhan in a 30-minute span Thursday as the Gaels discussed their Sweet 16 matchup with Baylor.

On the bulletin board full of negative articles he keeps in his bedroom:

"I print them out. But all my friends and family know I'm always looking for new material. I get e-mails all the time like, 'This guy says you won't be able to score against Baylor's bigs.' I'm like, 'All right. Send it over.' ... Anytime someone says you can't do it, it's human nature to want to prove you can."

On his sudden fame:

"Everybody in Moraga [Calif.] watched that game. I went to Safeway two days ago, and this little 3-year-old comes up and says, "Omar!" The mom goes, 'That's a big deal. She doesn't even know her preschool teacher's name.' So I was honored."

On his bold predictions:

"I said I guaranteed we'd win the national championship. Coach was like, 'There's no way you meant to say that.' I said, 'Yeah. I did.' It's one of those things where, if you don't think like that, you're going to lose.

"Like coach says, we're the only Cinderella with a bull's-eye on our back. It's nice. If you're not hunting, you're the hunted. We'd rather hunt than be hunted.

"If you talk like this, you'd better come ready to play."

On listening to Taylor Swift before games:

"Are those cameras on? [Looking directly into camera.] I love you, Taylor. You should call me.

"I'm a huge Taylor Swift fan. I listen to her before games. People think it's weird. But there is so much emotion and excitement before these games, it just kind of slows you down. And it keeps me mellow, because I'm just like a time bomb waiting to go off. So it keeps me mellow. Taylor, I feel like she's singing to me sometimes."

On the disrespect critical mass that will be reached when the Gaels and Bears tip off. (Baylor players also claim they are overlooked and have gotten no respect.):

"Tell Baylor Omar Samhan said this. I have to get my own ice after practice. Half the guys on my team don't have cars. We go to Saint Mary's College. They can't even start this argument. We live in Moraga. Come on. Let's be real, Baylor. You don't know my pain. Tell Baylor Omar Samhan says you don't know his pain."

On his lack of exposure as a recruit:

"Tell [McDonald's] I'm an honorary All-American."

On matching up with Baylor's zone defense:

"We fooled Baylor and most of the country. They think we win because we have this great inside post player. It's not that, it's 100 percent the shooting. It's the threes. I didn't score the last six minutes against Villanova. But all the headlines were 'Omar won,' 'Omar was key for Saint Mary's win.' But it was these guys knocking down fadeaway bank shots from 50 feet. So we have such great shooters that I'm excited for them to zone us. It's going to be a quiet night for me. Because it's hard for a big guy to score in the zone when the zone is 6-10, 6-10, 7-0. But we've got shooters that can make them pay for zoning us."

On the ride so far:

"I never thought I'd say this, but it's overwhelming.

"I don't regret anything, and I probably won't."

On his next set of interviews:

"I don't do radio. If they don't get to see my pretty face, I don't want to do it."

And because today's 21st-century instant celebrity can't prepare for a game without firing off a tweet"

"Taylor Swift lets get lunch! I am a Beast you could be Beauty!"

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