Lloyd Samuels started his season with decent showings on the court.
Samuels, 27, had a number of notable performances during the preseason National Trophy campaign for the Tees Valley Mohawks in the English Basketball League. While the semipro team out of Middlesbrough, England had a 0-5 mark at the bottom of their group, Samuels produced 14 points in a loss to the Bradford Dragons.
Mohawks head coach Steve Butler said Samuels is one of many players doing their jobs well.
“I’m so proud of this team, even though the results haven’t shown it,” Butler said. “We have been in every game until the last couple of minutes and thrown a few games away. The guys have progressed and are getting better every week.”
The team’s last trophy game happened on Sunday with Tees Valley losing by 25 points to the Derby Trailblazers. Samuels managed just five points in that game. While the Mohawks are eliminated from the trophy competition, the squad remains alive in the National Cup after beating Team Northumbria in the third round, 79-74.
The Mohawks are expected to strengthen their squad with several additions this month. Butler said he will work on his player rotation.
“These players have got to step up and fight for their place. I’ve said this from the start of the season that once the league starts, I believe we will have a squad to challenge for silverware and I firmly stick to that.”
Samuels is in his second season with Tees Valley after renewing his contract this summer. Months ago, he was in Cayman briefly doing offseason workouts with fellow Caymanian player Jerome Narcisse, 27, who left the team as a free agent. The West Bayer had a good rookie season with the Mohawks, earning a honorable mention for the All-EBL Division One First Team.
Another Caymanian who played with Tees Valley was Jorge Ebanks, 28. The George Town native was team captain for two years and had arguably his best individual campaign last season. He was named Domestic and Defensive Player of the Year and listed to the All-EBL Division One First Team. In spite of those accolades, the Mohawks missed the playoffs as they finished ninth in the league standings at 12-14.
Ebanks says he enjoyed playing with Samuels and Narcisse in England.
“I had fun playing alongside my fellow Caymanians in England,” Ebanks said. “I got to see them grow as players and people as we spent a lot of time together off the court. They both spent a lot of time in the gym working on their games. They struggled at the start of the season, but once they got comfortable with the speed of the game they started playing a lot better. Jerome’s second half of the season is when he really started to show his dominance every night as he realized how much bigger and stronger he was than other players.
“I’m sure they both went home and knew exactly what to work on over the summer to come back better. I know they were both hungry to go home and put the work in over the summer.”
Ebanks would go on to Portugal, signing a one-year deal with Angrabasket, which plays in a third-tier domestic league. The 6-foot-1-inch point guard recently met up with his new club in the city of Angra do Heroismo, on the island of Terceira, within the Azores region. Angrabasket, which has been in existence since 1998, is a semipro club that has played in Proliga – the country’s second-biggest competition – over the last 10 years before being relegated last season.
Samuels and the Mohawks will be gearing up for the start of the EBL Division One campaign, as Tees Valley are at home against Team Northumbria on Oct. 25.
Ebanks says he hopes the strides made by himself and Samuels will encourage future Caymanian players.
“I had a great time at Tees Valley. I met some great people and wish the team best of luck in the future. I’m going to miss those guys, but I’m glad I got to help build a link between Tees Valley and Cayman that can help open doors for other players. I hope basketball in Cayman is going up and more kids are playing the sport. With hard work and dedication, anything is possible.”