Achieving XL-ence

St. Benedict's is No. 5 in the nation for two very big reasons
March 05, 2007


FOR YEARS NewYork City--area basketball has been driven by guard play. So there's some ironythat Dan Hurley—a former standout point guard who was steeped in that traditionat St. Anthony in Jersey City—coaches a St. Benedict's Prep team that has risento No. 5 in the nation on the massive shoulders of the best low-post tandem inthe country: Samardo Samuels (6'9", 235 pounds) and Greg Echenique(6'9", 250 pounds). Having two such physically imposing players on a team,Hurley points out, "is almost never seen at this level."

Both forwardstraveled a long way to St. Benedict's (24--1), in Newark. Samuels, a junior,came from Jamaica in the summer of 2004 through Jamaica Basketball Development,Inc., which places promising athletes in U.S. high schools. The son of Rohan, acab driver, and Jacqueline, a homemaker, Samuels says the toughest challengesare the language—he spoke English at home but in Jamaican dialect—and theharder classwork, "but I accept them as a learning process." Echenique,a sophomore, left his family in Caracas, Venezuela, in '05 to come to St.Benedict's. The son of Jose, a high school coach who played NAIA hoops at UnionCollege in Barbourville, Ky., and Maria, a biology teacher, Echenique's goal isto win a Division I scholarship. He and Samuels are close. "There aresimilarities that allow us to understand each other," says Echenique."During the off-season he always comes to my [dorm] room to get me to playwith him and work out."

That theypractice against one another has been a blessing, Hurley says: Because theycan't overpower each other, it forces them to hone their skills. Together theyare nearly unstoppable. Samuels, with nifty post moves and a nice jumper,averages 19.7 points and 10.3 rebounds and is the sixth-best prospect in theclass of 2008 according to Echenique, a first-year starter, isaveraging 11.7 points and 9.8 rebounds. He is ranked 24th in the class of 2009."With two big guys like that," Hurley says, "why would you gosmall?"

PHOTOBRIAN COLE/OLSCHOOL.NET (SAMUELS)BIG FUTURES Echenique (12) and Samuels (15) are among the top-rated recruits in their classes. PHOTOARISTIDE ECONOMOPOULOS/THE STAR-LEDGER (ECHENIQUE)[See caption above]