For Gaels guards, hardwood harmony

High school teammates go from the park to the ARC

Roshane Roberts (above, left) is averaging 11.2 points per game in a starting role, while Cy Samuels (right) is sitting out the year after a solid rookie season.
Roshane Roberts (above, left) is averaging 11.2 points per game in a starting role, while Cy Samuels (right) is sitting out the year after a solid rookie season.
Roberts (shooting) has played 27.8 minutes a game in 14 starts.
Roberts (shooting) has played 27.8 minutes a game in 14 starts.

From the playground in the second grade to the pinnacle of high school basketball, Roshane Roberts and Cy Samuels have followed the same journey.

The friendship between the second-year Gaels guards goes back to the days of recess and Velcro shoes, when they first started playing basketball at their elementary school. Fast-forward just over a decade and you can find the two endlessly practicing their game at the ARC.

The natives of Vaughan, Ont., were clear when they were being recruited to Queen’s that they were a package deal.

“I based my decision on his decision,” said Roberts, who’s averaging 11.2 points per game as the Gaels’ starting shooting guard. “If Queen’s was going to get us, it was going to be a double deal.”

Winning seems to come naturally for the former high school teammates. Roberts and Samuels won back-to-back Ontario championships at Vaughan Secondary School, playing on the country’s top-ranked team two years running.

They also played alongside some of the top talent in Canada, including current Kansas Jayhawks forward Andrew Wiggins, the world’s number one college recruit this year.

“We had one goal and we knew how to reach it,” said Samuels, who’s sitting out the 2013-14 season after a solid freshman campaign.

“There were some tough times, but our time [at Vaughan] made us stronger and taught us how to be better teammates.”

Samuels and Roberts complement each other on and off the court. The outgoing Samuels is a 6’5” jack of all trades, while Roberts stands at six feet and is known for his hard-nosed defence, a deadly three-point shot and a reserved demeanour.

Samuels wasn’t shy when it came to complimenting his teammate’s competitiveness and all-around game. He likened Roberts to Newmarket native Kevin Pangos, a star guard for the NCAA’s Gonzaga Bulldogs.

“He always goes out and competes and it seems like coaches overlooked how good he was,” Samuels said. “We would have never won championships in high school if Roshane didn’t play as well as he did.”

Coming from the mecca of high school hoops to a Queen’s team that just went 2-20 in 2011-12 was a big step for Roberts and Samuels.

Newly hired head coach Steph Barrie told the pair he was essentially cleaning house, and planned to move forward with a rookie-heavy roster.

“I knew it wasn’t a strong basketball program,” Samuels said. “Coach told us he was clearing out most of the team and going with eight recruits and we will see where this goes … it was the perfect situation for us.”

They’ve done a good job so far of trying to bring Vaughan’s winning culture to Queen’s. Last season, the Gaels went 10-10 and made the playoffs. They’ve notched seven wins this season and hope to make a second straight post-season appearance.

The two have impressed individually for the tricolour. Roberts is starting every game and playing 28 minutes a night, while Samuels averaged four points and four rebounds as a rookie last season.

Although Samuels is redshirting this season, he’s looking at it in a positive light.

“This year is helping me and getting me extra focused. I realize things that I didn’t quite see last year,” he said. “I learn things from listening to [my] coach talk to me. It’s opened my eyes to new things and adjustments on the court that I didn’t see prior.”

Both players have set goals for themselves to achieve during their time as Gaels, on the hardwood and in the classroom.

Samuels said he hopes to eventually become an Academic All-Canadian. On the court, he’s eying the success he and Roberts enjoyed in high school.

“I want to see where training and working hard can take me as a basketball player, and to see how good I can become,” he said. “I want to be a champion. I miss that feeling, so I want to touch back on that.”

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