Samarrippas on point at SMU
Published: Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
Standing at only 5-feet-10-inches, freshman point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas is built more like a running back than a Division I college basketball player. But what he lacks in size, he makes up for in speed and agility.
Originally from Bartow, Fla., Samarrippas has made an immediate impact as the youngest starter on the Mustangs' roster. In 28 games, Samarrippas is 10th in the league with 41 steals and No. 8 in C-USA with 97 assists.
"I just try to outwork people and do the little things in the game like getting steals," Samarrippas said. "Coach [Doherty] says he wants me to be a little pest out there and make the other team mad."
Samarrippas is also third on the team in scoring with an average of 7.5 points per game, thanks in large part to his ability to hit clutch baskets, usually off a steal, from behind the three-point line.
"We wouldn't be in this position where we are with our league record without Jeremiah," Doherty said. "He gives us an intelligence and spark . . . and puts us in position to win. I wouldn't trade him. He's just going to get better and better."
A born leader, Samarrippas also started on his high school's varsity team as a freshman. Growing up, he was raised by his mother, who balanced raising Samarrippas and his three brothers while also working two jobs.
"Where I'm from its not that nice," Samarrippas said. "I just see how hard my mom works to be successful and how much she's sacrificed for me so I just try to do as much as I can to make her proud as her first son, and I want to make my brothers see what I'm doing so they follow me and have successful lives."
Samarrippas said his family has been to see him a play a few times this season but he is most looking forward to next week's game against the University of Central Florida in Orlando where he said he expects a "few hundred people" from his hometown to come out and support him.
After starting seven consecutive games beginning at the start of the season, Samarrippas entered a brief slump as conference play got underway. After a handful of games with worrisome assist-to-turnover ratios, Doherty decided to sit Samarrippas in mid-December.
"People say you hit a wall as a freshman," Samarrippas said. "So I hit my wall for a little bit. I just watched film and looked at what my mistakes were and just worked harder at practice."
Time on the bench served him well. In his first game back as a starter, while SMU fell to Tulane, Samarrippas' presence on offense proved he was ready to be included back in the starting line up.
"He's grown a lot," Doherty said. "It's asking a lot of a freshman to run what we run in a very competitive league but he's been fantastic."
Prior to coming to SMU, Samarrippas led the Bartow Senior High School basketball team to a 25-5 record and 5A State Championship while averaging 12.3 points and 7.3 assists per game. A starter at the varsity level all four years, he was also the 5A Florida High School Athletic Association Player of the Year in 2010.
"I saw a guy with a personality and charm," Doherty said. "He's got that confidence and cockiness that people like. He's a great leader and people want to follow him."
With two games left in the regular season, Samarrippas has his sights set on several post-season achievements.
"I want to win the conference and then go on to the NCAA tournament and make the Conference USA All-Freshman team," Samarrippas said. "I'm really just doing whatever I can to make us win."