OSSINING – Sitting on the floor of the Ossining High School gymnasium, taking her shoes and ankle guards off, the scar is still there — apparent as ever — on her right knee. It’s a constant reminder for Shadeen Samuels that her remarkable high school career almost wasn’t, and that her perseverance made it all happen.
She chipped her kneecap during a soccer game her freshman year, then played an entire basketball season on it after just a two-week stint on crutches. Doctors had told her she was good to go, but Samuels subconsciously knew different.
“Every game, it just got swollen,” she said. “It went back down, it got big again; but it got really bad in states, and that’s when I realized I had to do something.”
Samuels had an MRI done on her right knee, which revealed that she would need surgery to repair it. When her knee didn’t heal properly, she went under the knife yet again. She’s still not at full strength, but the Seton Hall-bound forward has no complaints about her career.
“After all those surgeries, I guess I can say that this year, it was good,” said the Journal News Westchester/Putnam girls basketball player of the year. “Even though I’m not 100 percent, things are getting better and good things happen.”
Looking at her résumé, it’s hard to see what could’ve been much better.
Samuels is the only player in New York State Public High School Athletic Association history to win four Class AA state titles, also winning two tournament MVP honors (2014, 2016). She was the best player on the best Ossining team in program history (28-2, first-ever Federation championship this season), and was named “Miss Basketball” — the highest honor in Section 1 — on Tuesday.
The accolades jump off the page, but the soft-spoken senior said it wasn’t always easy to stay positive.
“I’ve had that thought many times, where it hurt so much and I’m like, ‘I can’t do this anymore, maybe it’s just not going to work out,’ ” she said. “I have a lot of great teammates and a great coaching staff, and they’re always behind me, supporting me, telling me, ‘Don’t worry, things are going to work out,’ and I trusted them and it did work out.”
Samuels would go to physical-therapy sessions for one hour, three to four times a week to keep her knee strength up. Pride head coach Dan Ricci would have Samuels sit out practice at times to keep her well-rested. Samuels this season played in every game — a program-record 30 — for the first time in her career.
Few players have changed their game more than Samuels has in her four years with the Pride. Once an exclusive sharpshooting 3-point threat, Samuels learned how to handle the ball better and navigate through traffic, then she learned how to become more aggressive at the rim, then she put it all together.
“Every year on the team I’ve had a different role,” she said. “I try to do everything possible to help the team out, so whether it’s me going to the basket or shooting, if it’s what I need or what our team needs, then I’m going to do it.”
The rest of the Journal News first team includes:
Maddie Eck, Rye: One of the most well-rounded players in the section, the Amherst-bound senior forward led the Garnets to a Class A section title against the deepest field the section has seen in decades and their first regional title since 2004. Eck was named to the all-tournament team at states.
Aubrey Griffin, Ossining: Many are already saying Griffin could become the greatest player to ever come out of the area, and with good reason. The freshman was named MVP of the Section 1 Class AA tournament, was all-tournament at the state and Federation tournaments, and can nearly dunk a volleyball. The daughter of former NBA player Adrian Griffin, Aubrey will be a must-see talent until she graduates.
Lindsay Halpin, Irvington: The junior point guard put on one of the greatest displays ever at the Westchester County Center, scoring 45 points in the Class B section final to help the Bulldogs successfully defend their title.
Teisha Hyman, Woodlands: A player who could challenge Saniya Chong’s all-time Section 1 scoring record, the freshman phenom scored 42 points in the section final loss to Irvington and was a nightmare for opponents all season.
Coaches of the year: Dennis Hurlie (Rye) and Dan Ricci (Ossining): Hurlie’s coaching job from the regular season through the regional and state tournaments was nothing short of spectacular. Ricci, head of the best program in the section for years now, managed to outdo even himself by winning the program’s first Federation title, all while starting three freshmen.
Kayla Correa, New Rochelle, Sr.
Katie McLoughlin, Ursuline, Jr.
Katie Popp, Rye, Jr.
Lanay Rodney, Peekskill, Sr.
Gabby Rosenzweig, Somers, Sr.
Natalie Alfieri, Westlake, Jr.; Lisana Burnett, Peekskill, Sr.; Nicolina Chenard, Ardsley, Sr.; Rachel Cohen, Scarsdale, Sr.; Korina Guerra, Ursuline, Jr.; Kailah Harris, Ossining, Fr.; Nyrie Holliman, Peekskill, So.; Lindsay Kramer, Scarsdale, Sr.; Avery LaBarbera, Harrison, So.; Megan McHugh, Somers, Sr.; Frannie Merkel, Brewster, Sr.; Cassidy Mitchell, Eastchester, So.; Curstyn Moore, Mount Vernon, Jr.; Sam Morillo, Valhalla, So.; Emily O’Mahoney, Fox Lane, Sr.; Reena Olsen, Putnam Valley, Sr.; Maddie Plank, Briarcliff, Fr.; Dani Scaperrotta, Ardsley, So.; Jaida Strippoli, Ossining, Fr.; Maria Violante, Fox Lane, So.
Natalie Alfieri, Westlake, Jr.; Lisana Burnett, Peekskill, Sr.; Gabby Cajou, North Rockland, Sr.; Rachel Cohen, Scarsdale, Sr.; Kayla Correa, New Rochelle, Sr.; Marion Dietz, John Jay-East Fishkill, Sr.; Mairead Durkin, Albertus Magnus, So.; Maddie Eck, Rye, Sr.; Jenna Feinberg, Clarkstown South, Sr.; Samantha Fitzgerald, John Jay-East Fishkill, Sr.; Lauren Gallagher, Pearl River, Sr.; Aubrey Griffin, Ossining, Fr.; Korina Guerra, Ursuline, Jr.; Lindsay Halpin, Irvington, Jr.; Kailah Harris, Ossining, Fr.; Teisha Hyman, Woodlands, Fr.; Amanda Kiriakos, Saunders, Sr.; Lindsay Kramer, Scarsdale, Sr.; Avery LaBarbera, Harrison, So.; Dani LaRochelle, Albertus Magnus, So.; Katie McLoughlin, Ursuline, Jr.; Frannie Merkel, Brewster, Sr.; Curstyn Moore, Mount Vernon, Jr.; Sam Morillo, Valhalla, So.; Reena Olsen, Putnam Valley, Sr.; Maddie Plank, Briarcliff, Fr.; Katie Popp, Rye, Jr.; Alana Prosapio, Nanuet, Sr.; Lanay Rodney, Peekskill, Sr.; Gabby Rosenzweig, Somers, Sr.; Shadeen Samuels, Ossining, Sr.; Lauren Schetter, Beacon, Jr.; Casey Schweitzer, Arlington, Sr.; Maddie Siegrist, Lourdes, So.; Jaida Strippoli, Ossining, Fr.; Maria Violante, Fox Lane, So.