Samuels shines while Mohawks endure midseason decline

Lloyd Samuels continues to play well on a rebuilding team. 

Samuels, 27, scored 23 points and just missed the game-winning 3-pointer in a recent game against the Essex Leopards and made tangible contributions in other contests. The George Town native is one of the bright spots for a Tees Valley Mohawks side struggling in Division One of the English Basketball League. The Middlesbrough-based semipro outfit is now 11th of 13 teams with a 2-5 record after losing to the Worthing Thunder, 84-82, last Sunday. 

Mohawks head coach Steve Butler said aside from Samuels, he needs more effort from his players. 

“This can’t happen every week,” Butler said. “I feel I’m saying the same thing week in week out – ‘reduce mistakes, we’re better than the other team.’ But we are just handing teams victories against us. We just roll over and let them take the game from us. I really have to look at myself and think ‘am I playing the right guys?’ at the end of the game or ‘do I need a spark from the bench?’” 

Against the Thunder, Samuels reportedly had a key role on both ends of the floor in the first half. The Mohawks will be looking for more sterling efforts from the Caymanian star in their next league game against the Leicester Warriors on Dec. 6. The squad’s last match before the Christmas break is on Dec. 13 against the Manchester Magic. Tees Valley start the New Year against the Kent Crusaders on Jan. 10. The playoffs take place in mid-April 2015. 

The lack of success is a recurring theme for Samuels and Tees Valley this year. The Mohawks crashed out of the preseason National Trophy competition with an 0-5 mark at the bottom of their group. The side would then be eliminated midway through the National Cup event.  

Butler says the key to a turnaround in the coming weeks is a renewed focus on teamwork. 

“I know we can beat these top teams. We showed great character to keep battling. We need to produce more of a team effort and not rely on certain people. We have a fantastic squad and I’m confident we can turn the corner and get the results we need.”  

Samuels is in his second season with Tees Valley after renewing his contract this summer. He is the lone Caymanian on the squad after Jerome Narcisse, 27, left the team as a free agent this summer. Narcisse had a good rookie season with the Mohawks, earning a honorable mention for the All-EBL Division One First Team. 

The other Caymanian who played alongside Samuels was Jorge Ebanks, 28. The George Town native was team captain for two years, being named Domestic and Defensive Player of the Year last season. Ebanks went on to Portugal, signing a one-year deal with Angrabasket, which plays in a third-tier domestic league. The shooting guard dealt with minor injuries early on but has helped the club rank third of 10 teams in the standings through its first seven games. 

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Lloyd Samuels, right, has played well in the face of tough opposition. – PHOTO: SUBMITTED

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