Italian glory for Jamaica's king of basketball Samuels
JAMAICA'S Samardo Samuels is happy for the end-of-season break after helping his Milan-based outfit to the basketball league title in Italy.
The power forward, who can also play in the centre position, returned to the island on Tuesday after Emporio Armani Milano's gruelling seven-match series win over Montepaschi Siena in the play-off finals of the Lega Basket Serie A.
It was Samuels' first season in Italy and Milano's first national title since 1996.
"It's unreal. The feeling is crazy," the former NBA player with the Cleveland Cavaliers told the Jamaica Observer.
"It was tough, but to win the Championship at the end, that was good. The Italian League is actually harder than I thought it would be and there are some really good players over there."
Being able to put in quality time with his family in Trelawny means the world to Samuels.
"This break is everything right now. This is so relaxing. After 10 months at a high level of competing every day and to now have days when you can sit down on a beach and have a few drinks is great," the former Muschett High School star exclaimed.
The 25-year-old added, however, that he could be back in training "in a couple of weeks".
Milano were the top team throughout the regular season and held their form in respective quarter-final and semi-final victories before facing Siena, the most successful team in Italy domestic competitions for the last decade.
"It was a great series against Siena. We had them 0-2 down and they came back and won three in a row. Then we went to their home and won and returned to our place and won Game Seven. It was a battle because these guys won the title seven years in a row," the professional basketball player said.
Samuels' Emporio Armani Milano team was the second-best in the regular season of the Euroleague behind Barcelona, but fell out at the quarter-final stage of the play-offs.
While the Italian Championship and the Euroleague is a different challenge to the sparkling hype surrounding the NBA, he said the quality of play was surprisingly good.
A new member to the franchise, he said that the chemistry within the squad improved as the season neared its end.
"I enjoyed Europe. It was better than I thought it would be.
"When it came down to the final part everybody in the team started to know each other. The whole year was tough, [and] we had a lot of talented guys, but as the season went on everybody knew their role," explained the six-foot nine-inch tall forward.
There was a major setback after he joined Milano in September of last year. He broke his hand in late November and did corrective surgery on December 1. Healing quickly and powered by strong will, he was back on-court at the turn of the new year.
"There were ups and downs. I broke my hand and was out for a month, but I was able to play by midway in January. For the most part, it was pretty steady going. I thought I improved along the way."
Adrian Uter, a teammate of Samuels during Jamaica's historic run in last year's FIBA Americas Championship in Venezuela, also featured in the Italian domestic campaign. Uter's Pallacanestro Cantu team was eliminated at the quarter-finals.