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Original Issue

Achieving XL-ence

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

ST. BENEDICT'S
Newark

FOR YEARS NewYork City--area basketball has been driven by guard play. So there's some ironythat Dan Hurley—a former standout point guard who was steeped in that traditionat St. Anthony in Jersey City—coaches a St. Benedict's Prep team that has risento No. 5 in the nation on the massive shoulders of the best low-post tandem inthe 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 forwardstraveled 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, acab driver, and Jacqueline, a homemaker, Samuels says the toughest challengesare the language—he spoke English at home but in Jamaican dialect—and theharder 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 UnionCollege in Barbourville, Ky., and Maria, a biology teacher, Echenique's goal isto win a Division I scholarship. He and Samuels are close. "There aresimilarities that allow us to understand each other," says Echenique."During the off-season he always comes to my [dorm] room to get me to playwith him and work out."

That theypractice against one another has been a blessing, Hurley says: Because theycan't overpower each other, it forces them to hone their skills. Together theyare 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 theclass of 2008 according to Rivals.com. Echenique, a first-year starter, isaveraging 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 gosmall?"

PHOTO

BRIAN COLE/OLSCHOOL.NET (SAMUELS)

BIG FUTURES Echenique (12) and Samuels (15) are among the top-rated recruits in their classes.

PHOTO

ARISTIDE ECONOMOPOULOS/THE STAR-LEDGER (ECHENIQUE)

[See caption above]