Smiling Samhan ready for hard summer

DALLAS -- The Mavericks kicked off Summer League practices this week with games starting in Las Vegas on Friday. The media got to meet the 11-player squad on Tuesday. Obviously, Roddy Beaubois received star attention as the focal point of the summer team and the hope of the varsity club.

First-round draft pick Dominique Jones was also a big attraction and Harvard point guard Jeremy Lin drew a crowd as he tries to become the first American-born Asian player to make it in the NBA.

However, one of the more intriguing players to watch during the five-game Summer League (Friday-July 18) will be 6-foot-11 Omar Samhan. The charismatic traditional center doesn't possess great athleticism and despite averaging 30.5 points on 75 percent shooting against Richmond and Villanova in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament, teams still weren't biting in the draft.

He averaged 23.1 points and 10.9 rebounds during his senior season in which he led Saint Mary's to its first Sweet 16.

"After the draft, I was super disappointed. I was pissed off; thought I should have got drafted, didn't, and I have something to prove," Samhan said. "The next day I get a Facebook message from [Mark] Cuban. He's like, 'What are you doing? Do you want to come to Dallas.' I said I'd love to."

Samhan is tall, but his 265-pound physique isn't exactly revealing of his strength. Ask about his qualities in terms of making it in the NBA and you get answers as if asking about a blind date that your buddy knows has a great personality, but, well, might fall somewhere south of a 10.

"First and foremost, great attitude, great attitude about basketball, about life," Mavs player development coach and summer league head coach Monte Mathis said. "He's an energetic guy, he's a gym rat, he loves to be on the court, he loves to be coached. You never have to kick him in the butt to get him going because he's always got an energy about himself."

And now for the actual basketball skills part: "But, he can shoot the ball. He's got skills for a big guy and I think he's going to be fun to watch, also, during summer league."

Fun and entertaining. Samhan wears a thin beard that outlines his face that always seems to be in smile mode. But, he knows how to work. He lost 50 pounds during his time at Saint Mary's and developed his skills to the point where he went from basically unrecruited to becoming a dominant low-post scorer. He is intriguing because he does play a traditional center, back-to-the-basket game, but he doesn't have the athleticism that could doom his hopes of playing in the NBA.

He also knows the Mavs' center position is in flux. Brendan Haywood is an unrestricted free agent and Erick Dampier is on the trading block. As far as Samhan is concerned, anything can happen.

"I complement someone like Dirk a lot because he's more of an outside 4 [power forward], doesn’t bang as much, so I kind of do the dirty work and he can score. It's a good tradeoff," Samhan said. "Obviously, I've got to climb a lot. It's a challenge I think is doable. It's a tough spot, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. So, I just got to gut it out and hope Cuban believes in me, hope Donnie Nelson believes in me the way I believe in them."

Samhan should see plenty of playing time in Vegas. The only other center on the roster is 7-foot-4 Moussa Seck, a 220-pound developomental player the Mavs have been working with for a couple of years.