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Jared Samuelson

Billings West's Jared Samuelson has drawn interest from Division I coaches, but he wants to play college basketball "where I'm loved, not where I'm liked."

The basketball offseason is about to get really busy for players looking to make their impressions to Division I coaches. Jared Samuelson of Billings West and Kendal Manuel of Billing Skyview are already forging their marks.

Samuelson was ranked the 11th best player at the Pangos Spring Spectacular in Las Vegas in April by the national scouting and recruiting service Area Codes Basketball. Manuel played a tremendous game at the Rose City Showcase last weekend, tallying 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Samuelson and Manuel play for Anthony Davis Select, an AAU team based out of Boise. Missoula Hellgate’s Tres Tinkle is the only other Montana player on the roster.

“Four or five of us could all go Division I,” Manuel said of the talented roster. “If we just play as a team and just do what we’ve been doing lately, I think the sky’s the limit. With that much talent on our team, no one’s going to be able to stop us really.”

Manuel said getting a Division I scholarship offer is his goal, and he’s receiving interest from Army, Boise State, Montana and Oregon State. Former Montana coach Wayne Tinkle is now at Oregon State, and Manuel said Tinkle is “the driving force” behind Oregon State’s interest.

“He was talking to me when he was at Montana,” Manuel continued. “That transferred over to Oregon State now.”

Manuel, who will be a senior this fall, is only 16 years old, so he’s still growing. Right now he’s a 6-foot-3 shooting guard who can score the ball, but Manuel knows he has to show coaches he can do the “little things” if he wants to drum up more D-I interest.

“My biggest thing right now is just defense. Everybody’s going to know you can score,” he said. “You just gotta do the little things – take charges, play defense, dive for a ball. Your effort and how you play together with your team (are important).”

Samuelson singled out defense as the most important thing for him to work on, too. He said he’s already bulked up since the end of basketball season, adding 15 pounds. At 6-7, he’s one of the taller players on the Anthony Davis Select team, so he has to do battle with bigger players on opposing teams.

“I’ve been having to guard 6-11, 6-9 kids,” Samuelson said. “I’ve done fairly well against them, boarding, boxing out.”

Samuelson added that his versatility causes problems for opposing big men. He can step out and play on the perimeter – even playing the point at times – or he can play on the interior if needed.

“Coaches really like the versatility,” explained Samuelson, who is getting interest from Boise State, Montana, Montana State and Wyoming, among others. “I’m able to do more than just stay inside or stay outside. I can do both.”

Samuelson said he’s received consistent contact from Montana, where Travis DeCuire was recently named the new head coach. DeCuire played alongside Samuelson’s dad, Shawn, when he was a player for the Grizzlies in the 1990s.

Shawn Samuelson has offered his advice to his son during the recruiting process.

“He’s been really right there by my side with all this stuff,” Jared said. “He’s not, ‘You need to go here, you need to go there.’ He’s told me he wants me to go where I’m loved, not where I’m liked.”

Right now, it seems both Samuelson and Manuel are liked by plenty of college coaches. This summer is their opportunity to earn a coach’s love.

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Online sports editor for The Billings Gazette.