German-born Ante Samodol is adjusting very well to his new surroundings on and off the court. That could mean good things for Memorial Sea-Hawks for the remainder of the Atlantic universities basketball season.
MUN head coach Peter Benoite admits it took Samodol some time to get comfortable with the Sea-Hawks, but the player he found playing streetball in Europe has already been a pleasant surprise.
"It was a big adjustment for him, especially considering the fact he was two weeks late getting here," said Benoite.
"Then, a week later, he rolled his ankle. And a week after that, he got the flu, so it has taken him awhile to get adjusted. Plus the fact that, although his English is perfect, it's always a bit different when you are in another country."
Despite the early setbacks, Samodol is averaging 9.2 point and a team-leading six rebounds per game for the 1-5 Sea-Hawks. In two games against the Saint Mary's Huskies before the Christmas break, Samodol had 25 points off the bench in helping the Sea-Hawks split the Atlantic Universities Sport (AUS) series.
"He showed in the Saint Mary's weekend that he is starting to get there," said Benoite, who expects the 6-7 centre to show a lot more next semester, "as I think he'll be settled in more.
"He'll have his courses straightened away, and won't be starting off behind, so everything will be better for him. His maturity and life experience is a real asset to the guys."
Samodol admits that before he talked to Benoite, he had never heard about St. John's or Newfoundland.
"I travelled a lot, but never to Canada. I thought St. John's would be way smaller and more quiet, but it surprised me ... in a good way," Samodol said.
"The people here are way different than at home. Germans are more cold-blooded and not always easy to get along with. Here, people just come up to you and talk about anything, just to get to know you. I really like it here."
Samodol believes the season is going well so far..
"I started slow, but I am getting more and more into the players and the way to play ball here," he said. "It's a different type of game. I just need to spend more time with my teammates, so we get on the same level, same game understanding."
He isn't concerned about he way Benoite is using him, either.
"Its not about how the coach is using me. It's about how the players accept and use me in the game," Samodol said.
"Coach is a great person, in many ways. I would say, through his experience playing in Germany, he helps because we have the same game understanding and get along great," said Samodol ,who grew up in Gelsenkirchen, a mid-sized town in the west of Germany.
A swimmer until the age of 12, he played basketball for the German national junior team from 2002 to 2004 and competed in the European junior championship in 2002. He was Nike MVP at the German national camp in 2002 and an MVP and Euro Cup winner in 2002.
Samodol played for Williston State College in North Dakota, where he averaged 5.7 points per-game and 4.4 rebounds per game the 2006-07 when he was named most improved player by his teammates.
He also wore jersey No. 44, the same as he's wearing this season with Sea-Hawks.
"Ante adds a great dynamic to our team," noted Benoite. "He is so athletic that he is a tough match-up for any other big man in the league. Plus, he can play like a perimeter player, get to the lane and shoot the three. He is also very smart on the court and is very good at finding his teammates. His unselfishness is probably his best trait."
"You can tell he loves the games and its great for the fans as he plays with emotion. Sometimes I need to get him to tone it down, but the emotion certainly helps him play.".
Date of birth: Oct. 19, 1986
Born: Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Nationality: German and Croatian
Height: Six-foot-seven; Weight: 230 pounds
Personal philosophy: "Enjoy every day of your life. (But in basketball its respect all, fear none.)"
On his iPod: "A lot of hip hop, R&B and Croatian music."
Favourite movies: Boondock Saints, Scarface, How High, Green Street Hooligans
Person he most admires: "I would say my grandmother. She was always there for me and my sister."
A country he'd like to visit for the first time: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Other than your parents, a person who has had the most influence on you: "My uncle Franjo. He actually made me play basketball."
In a perfect world, what would you like to do for the rest of your life: "I don't think that there will ever be a perfect world. It is always gonna be about
money and power."