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Achieving XL-ence
Kevin Armstrong
March 05, 2007
St. Benedict's is No. 5 in the nation for two very big reasons
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March 05, 2007

Achieving Xl-ence

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

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FOR YEARS New York City--area basketball has been driven by guard play. So there's some irony that Dan Hurley—a former standout point guard who was steeped in that tradition at St. Anthony in Jersey City—coaches a St. Benedict's Prep team that has risen to No. 5 in the nation on the massive shoulders of the best low-post tandem in the 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 forwards traveled 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, a cab driver, and Jacqueline, a homemaker, Samuels says the toughest challenges are the language—he spoke English at home but in Jamaican dialect—and the harder 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 Union College in Barbourville, Ky., and Maria, a biology teacher, Echenique's goal is to win a Division I scholarship. He and Samuels are close. "There are similarities that allow us to understand each other," says Echenique. "During the off-season he always comes to my [dorm] room to get me to play with him and work out."

That they practice against one another has been a blessing, Hurley says: Because they can't overpower each other, it forces them to hone their skills. Together they are 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 the class of 2008 according to Echenique, a first-year starter, is averaging 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 go small?"