By Scott Halasz
XENIA — Xenia boys basketball coach Kent Anderson knew early on he had a legit player in Samari Curtis.
“When he came in last year after the first two weeks of practice last year, he’s like ‘Coach, I have so much to learn,’ ” Anderson said. “The kid just loves to learn the game of basketball and loves to get better and he just works his tail off. Because of that, it’s going to lead to a lot of success for him.”
A year later, Curtis is realizing that success.
Heading into Friday night’s game at county rival Fairborn, the 6-foot-3 sophomore point guard has more than doubled his average from last season, pouring in a Greater Western Ohio Conference—leading 27 points a game. But he’s also nearly double his assist average, dishing out four per game, while also increasing his steal and rebound averages as well.
After sitting out this season’s first two games due to an injury, he returned to score 31 in a 56-51 loss to Stebbins. He went for 20 in a losing effort at Trotwood-Madison and then scored 30 in an easy win over West Carrollton Saturday at Benner Field House. Last season, Curtis hit double figures in all but six games, topping 20 points just once in a win at Bellbrook.
“Last year I usually tried to rush things because I was a freshman, just trying to prove myself,” Curtis said. “This year I’m just letting the game come to me.”
And at the same time, he knows when it’s time to take over.
Against West Carrollton, Curtis did more than score. He had 11 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and was rumored to be selling popcorn at halftime and taking tickets at the door as well.
OK, maybe the last two things are a bit of a stretch — but if it would help the Bucs win, Curtis would do it.
“Team-wise, I’d like for us to win more,” he said. “If I (scored) 13 and we win, I like that. But if I (scored) 31 and we lose, that’s not a game that I want.”
In fact, recalling his first game Dec. 9 — during which Curtis made five 3-point shots and hit 8 of 10 from the line — Curtis was disappointed walking off the court.
“I was actually kind of mad that I scored that much and we didn’t win,” he said. ” I didn’t really care because we lost. Then I looked at my assists, I only had one assist and knew I had to get my teammates more involved.”
It’s a team-first attitude Anderson likes to see.
“He gets just as excited about a flashy pass and another kid scoring,” Anderson said. “He’ll pump his fist for that, yet when he makes a three, sometimes it’s just OK. It’s nice to see him worry about his teammates.”
That’s the job of the primary ball-handler. And Curtis is becoming more and more of an on-the-court leader, according to Anderson.
“He’s starting to see things through my eyes, a little bit,” Anderson said. “We’ve been working on his leadership as a point guard. Probably will be a two in college, but for us, we need him to be a scoring one, to be that scoring point guard and he’s doing that regularly.”
Curtis knew the Bucs would lean on him, especially since he was the top returning scorer. But he’s not letting it get to his head and he’s not afraid to seek input from teammates.
“(I’ve been) falling back on our seniors, Ricky Williams, Kai Johnson, Kobe Hughlett,” Curtis said. “They help me with a lot.”
And in return, Curtis is helping his team. Any way he can.