IN THE SPOTLIGHT
New Trier head boys basketball coach Scott Fricke was fielding questions about Matt Samuelson the other night in a postgame interview … when, in mid-sentence, Matt Samuelson walked by.
“There he is,” said Fricke, moments after his Trevians defeated Wheeling 57-43 in a Class 4A regional semifinal game on New Trier’s home court on Feb. 27. “You want to talk to him?”
Assist … Fricke.
The underrated Samuelson, a 6-foot-3 senior, continues to be a valuable role player for the 23-5 Trevians, who will face seventh-seeded Prospect (22-5) in a regional title game on March 2 (7 p.m.). He’s one of the super subs, along with junior Sam Silverstein and senior Matt Mosher.
This lefty comes into the game and instantly does a lot of things right.
Samuelson is especially effective launching up shots from three-point range.
“He’s a pure shooter,” said Fricke, who watched Samuelson tally seven points in limited minutes against Wheeling.
“And he’s pretty good at taking it to the basket like he did tonight,” the coach added.
Samuelson is not shy about putting it up. When he enters a game, the green light is on. In fact, it flashes.
He popped in a three-pointer from the corner to open New Trier’s scoring in the fourth quarter. A few minutes later, he increased NT’s lead to 17 points, 47-30, on a strong move down the lane.
Samuelson’s long-range accuracy has not come automatically. It’s been a labor … of love.
“Countless hours in the gym,” said Samuelson, who is a big fan of the school’s brand-new “Shooting Gun”.
And then, there’s the rim in the Samuelson backyard. When the weather cooperates, that hoop gets a workout.
Shooting hoops is a family practice in the Samuelson household. His Dad, Scott, is a former Division III player at Carroll College. His brother, Ricky, averaged 15.7 points per game and earned all-conference honors for Wheaton College this winter, while his two sisters, Katie and Jenny, are former hoopsters at New Trier.
“All shooters,” Samuelson said.
You can thank Scott Samuelson for that.
“He gets on me [to keep improving my shot],” said the son. “It’s good. He loves me and just wants the best for me.”
Meanwhile, inserting Samuelson into the lineup is just plain good strategy. No doubt, the scouting report on this New Trier team includes: don’t leave No. 24 open.
“With our two big guys [6-9 Ciaran Brayboy and 6-8 Spencer Boehm], teams have to condense the inside,” said Samuelson, who is looking to play college basketball at the Division III level next season. “I try to come in, spread the floor and open things up for everyone else.”
His improvement in other phases of the game — ball-handling, rebounding and defending — has led to more and more playing time.
“He just keeps getter better and better,” said Fricke.