Crestwood High School has officially landed a very big name in its search for a new boys basketball head coach.
Crestwood athletic director Dwayne Edwards has confirmed that Aric Samuel will be the next head coach for the Knights.
Samuel comes …
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Samuel comes to Crestwood with three South Carolina state titles. He led Hunter-Tyler-Kinard to a 1A championship in 2005 and won back-to-back 3A titles at Hartsville in 2012 and 2013.
Most recently, Samuel was the head coach for Coker College, an NCAA Division II program in Hartsville in the ultra-competitive South Atlantic Conference.
"It's very exciting," Samuel said of coming to Crestwood. "I had the opportunity to work with the guys over the summer. I have a mature senior class. It's a group of young men that are excited that I'm here and are ready to work extremely hard."
Samuel takes over for Tony Wilson, who is moving back to run the girls program. Wilson went 4-19 in both of his seasons as the boys head coach after coaching the girls program the previous 11 seasons.
Samuel inherits a senior-laden class led by center Mark Huffman and point guard Mitchell Pollard.
"We have some interesting pieces," said Samuel. "Huffman is a 6-(foot-)9(-inch) center, and if he really engages himself he's got an opportunity to play at the college level. I was also really surprised with Mitchell Pollard. He'll be our senior point guard. He's definitely a leader, and a wonderful kid. I think the seniors can help me establish this new program, get off to a good start, and put ourselves in a position to have a good year."
Samuel brings with him his trademark, full-court pressing style of play that has helped his teams have so much success over his career. "Hopefully my style will apply a bit better to this level," said Samuel. "I think at the high school level it's a great style of play. We want to pick up full court man-to-man, and make the game as difficult as possible for our opponent to move the ball up and down the court."
Samuel sees himself in Crestwood for the long haul. "Dr. (principal Shirley) Gamble and Coach Edwards have been wonderful. I'm very loyal to them, and I really appreciate the opportunity that they provided for me and my family. I hope and pray this will be my last stop as a basketball coach. I think Crestwood gives me a chance to put together a program that can sustain success for years to come."
While Samuel didn't achieve the same success at the college level that he did at his high school stops, he still sees the experience in a positive light. He earned his Master's degree while at Coker, and that has afforded him the opportunity to teach a business education course in conjunction to his coaching duties. "I gained a lot of experience off the court and really learned the value of the kids' education," said Samuel.
His biggest challenge at Coker was simply juggling the massive roster sizes that come with coaching at an enrollment-driven institution. Last year's team fluctuated between 20 to 25 players throughout the season. Small private schools like Coker are dependent on large numbers of student-athletes to meet enrollment numbers, but that strategy is often detrimental to the student-athletes that get stuck on the end of the bench of their respective teams.
"You have these large rosters to enhance enrollment, and I ran into a lot of problems and dissatisfaction from kids because of playing time," said Samuel. "The kids want to play and you have a lot of turnover and then form bad relationships. I think it just got to a point where (some of the players) decided, if they aren't going to play, then they just aren't going to participate with the team."
Crestwood represents a chance at a fresh start for Samuel.
"I told the kids right away our goal is to win a state championship," said Samuel. "I look forward to being very, very, very strong at home. I think that's the first step to turning the program around, winning at home and then being competitive on the road. We're geared up for a comeback year."
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