HONOLULU – Jamar Samuels walked off the Stan Sheriff Center floor for the final time Sunday with a lei around his neck, a commemorative oar in his hand and a gigantic grin on his face.
The senior forward had just scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help the Kansas State basketball team beat Long Beach State 77-60 and win the Diamond Head Classic, the program's first tournament championship in five years.
He was jubilant and talkative. At 10-1, the Wildcats are headed into Big 12 play with plenty of momentum and are in line to break into the Top 25. Even if they are snubbed this week, they finally have some hardware to point to as a tangible sign of success.
If only Samuels knew what to do with his.
"I've never gotten anything like this before," said Samuels of his unusual all-tournament team trophy. "I guess I'm going to put it in my room until it's time to go home and give it to my mom, or something. Tell her to put it on the wall or frame it. Honestly, I don't know what to do with it. But it's pretty cool."
A few feet behind him, Rodney McGruder was taking in the moment in similar fashion. The junior forward had just scored a career-high 28 points on his way to tournament MVP honors.
"This is so great," McGruder said. "You can't ask for a better Christmas present on Christmas Day. It's what you work for in the summers – to win championships." (more…)