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Samarco soars as a Falcon

When Martin Samarco wasn’t even recruited out of high school by Eastern Michigan, the university down the road from his home in Ypsilanti, he wasn’t about to let that stop him from his dream of playing professional basketball.

“It was harsh,” Samarco said. “I was from Ypsilanti, and they could have at least recruited me and gave me the choice.”

Instead, the senior embarked on a mission to prove he belonged in Division I basketball, no matter what it took.

Three years later, Bowling Green’s star guard and leading scorer has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he deserves a place playing on the highest level of collegiate athletics.

“I always thought I was good enough to play D-I basketball,” Samarco said. “I just kept working at it and working at it.”

Although Samarco always knew he had the skills to succeed in NCAA basketball, he was never able to showcase those skills throughout high school. At 6’3″, Samarco was playing at the power forward position in high school because his undersized Belleville team needed his height under the basket. College coaches never saw the shooting ability that allowed Samarco to make 100 three-point field goals last season, a Bowling Green record.

“In high school, my dream was just to keep playing basketball and help my team win,” he said. “But I didn’t get the recognition, because I had to play out of position the whole time.”

Without the test scores or scholarship offers needed to head off to a university, Samarco decided to stay with basketball and take the junior college route. His main concern: Finding a way to earn his degree and help provide for his mother and four younger siblings.

“My mom is like my best friend – I can tell her anything,” Samarco said. “She’s one of the strongest people I know, because she works full time to provide for our family. I knew if I didn’t get a degree, I’d have to come back to Ypsilanti and deal with poverty, and no one wants to be poor.”

Samarco first enrolled at Kirtland Community College in Roscommon, Mich. There, he made the All-Freshman team in his first year and played for the freshman all-star team. Despite his success, Kirtland lacked the national exposure Samarco needed to attract D-I coaches and scholarship offers.

The next year, Samarco transferred to Schoolcraft Community College in Livonia, Mich, where he would be surrounded by some of the best players in junior college basketball.

The switch paid off, as SCC went 27-3 that year and Samarco was named an NJCAA All-American, which would be good enough to catch the attention of dozens of Division I coaches. Samarco soon had offers from schools the likes of Kent State, Western Michigan and Kansas State. In the end though, it was under coach Dan Dakich at Bowling Green where Samarco felt the most at ease.

“It really came down to that I felt comfortable playing for coach Dakich,” Samarco said. “Coach Dakich is straightforward, he’s been coaching for years and he’s not going to lead you wrong.”

While Samarco found what he was looking for at Bowling Green, Dakich and his coaching staff felt they had landed the player they needed to put points on the board for the Falcons.

“We had two really good scorers on the way out, and we knew we needed a kid that could really score,” Dakich said. “We felt he was tough and could get the ball in the basket, and that’s what we needed.”

Samarco came just in time for a young Falcon squad in need of leadership. Teammate and fellow senior Matt Lefeld had been playing under Dakich for two seasons and saw the need for a player like Martin Samarco on the inexperienced team

“Martin’s just a real high energy guy that motivates other guys to work hard,” Lefeld said. “He’s definitely a leader – you can point him out in a crowd because people will always be following him.”

In his first season at BG, Samarco made his presence felt throughout the Mid-American Conference. Finishing as the team’s MVP, Samarco was second in the MAC in scoring per game (18.9), 10 nationally in three point shooting proficiency (45.7) and earned second team All-MAC honors.

Finally settled into his role as a shooting guard, Samarco’s ability to hit shots was a pleasant surprise for many Falcon faithful. For Samarco, it’s something he’s been doing since his days growing up in Ypsilanti.

“When I was younger, I went to a lot of parks where the rims where small, so everyone in my neighborhood could shoot,” Samarco said. “I knew it was something I was good at, so I just kept working on it.”

Ironically, Samarco posted his game of the season in his home town of Ypsilanti against EMU, the team that did not recruit him three years earlier. In the game, Samarco posted a season high 35 points, was a perfect 10-10 at the free throw line and picked up four steals in the process.

Still, the season was bittersweet for Samarco, as the Falcons struggled to a disappointing 9-21 record overall and posed little threat to opponents in the MAC.

“I didn’t get the effect of [personal success], because we had a losing season,” Samarco said. “Like coach Dakich said, ‘someone has to lead every team in scoring.'”

Samarco remains optimistic about the team’s chances in this coming season, as the Falcons return many key starters and role players.

“We’ll be better than last year,” he said. “Once we started, losing our confidence dropped, and it’s hard to come back when you’re already down.”

Lefeld knows that, as a senior, this will be a vastly important year for both Samarco and himself.

“I think it’s all three of us seniors’ job to let the young guys know that last year is not how it’s done in Bowling Green,” Lefeld said. “Martin’s a big part of that.”

If the team is to turn things around this year, Dakich agrees that Samarco and improvements being made this off-season will play a big role. Come opening tip, Dakich believes the entire Falcon team will benefit from this journeyman’s experience, talent and passion for the game.

“He has to defend and make players around him better,” Dakich said. “That’s what great players do – they make everyone around them better.

“He’s a kid I expect to have a huge senior year.”

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