HONOLULU — Regardless of what happens in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic today, Jamar Samuels will be thinking of his late grandmother.
The Kansas State senior forward began the week by saying goodbye to Patsy Elizabeth Samuels, who died Dec. 17 at the age of 78. In order to attend the funeral service in Washington D.C., Samuels arrived in Hawaii late and missed practice time, but they were necessary sacrifices.
The two were very close, and Samuels had the chance to hug her earlier this month when she came to watch him play in a road game at Virginia Tech. That moment will have a lasting influence on him.
"The last thing she told me is that she's proud of me," Samuels said. "I'm going to take that to the grave with me, just knowing I can still provide for my family and I want to keep playing basketball for her."
To that end, Samuels has played with a purpose since arriving in Hawaii. He came off the bench against Southern Illinois to score 14 points, and came through with a double-double on Friday against Texas-El Paso.
Since K-State basketball coach Frank Martin arrived in Manhattan, he has talked about the importance of winning championships whenever possible. Despite advancing to the title game of the Big 12 tournament two years ago, and the title game of the CBE Classic last season, the Wildcats haven't earned any hardware.
No one associated with the K-State basketball team wants to push the squad over that hump and bring a championship trophy back to Manhattan more than Samuels, the Wildcats' only scholarship senior.
"I've never won a tournament championship since I've been here," Samuels said. "To get one would mean a lot. It's my senior year. I just want to get a win for this team."
He feels like he owes his teammates that much. He's had an up-and-down career, and his senior season beagn with a three-game suspension for violating team rules. His biggest accomplishment has been being a key reserve during the Wildcats' run to the Elite Eight in 2010, and he wants to leave his mark.
Playing three solid games, and helping K-State win a tournament championship before the start of Big 12 play is something he says he could look back on years from now and proudly tell his children about.
Martin has been impressed with Samuels' drive to that goal.
"He has become a voice of reason, a guy who understands what I want and what the team needs from him," Martin said. "He's not wrapped up in... if you guys remember him in the same moments in his career, (we have) a lead, the game starts going the other way, he has a meltdown and he struggles to finish the game.
"Well, today he keeps the team in tune. He's not going to melt down even though we lost the lead. He's been rock solid."
If he can keep that form for one more game before heading home from Hawaii, he will have accomplished something he would want his late grandmother to see. And something his team can boast about the rest of the year.
"This team has stuck together since Day One," Samuels said. "We've dealt with the miscues I had early in the year, and we're jelled in. I'm very happy for my team."