It has been a year of reinvention for Seton Hall University’s women’s basketball program. The breakout star for the Pirates has been junior forward Shadeen Samuels, who concluded the regular season averaging 18.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. For the final week of conference play, Samuels was named Big East Women’s Basketball Player of the Week. She also received the Big East Most Improved Player award and was named All-Conference First Team.

Although Samuels knows that she put in the work, the honors still took her by surprise. “I never thought it would go this way,” said Samuels, who more than doubled her per game scoring average from the 2017-18 season. “It’s kind of exciting. I give a lot of credit to my teammates because they put a lot of effort in and they have a lot of confidence in me. It makes everything a lot better.”

Samuels credited being more focused and putting in time in the gym to work on her previous weaknesses. That made her more comfortable and confident on the court. While she’s not a particularly vocal leader, her teammates do feed off her energy, which she attributed to leading by example.

“Even my teammates have said they’ve seen a side of me this year that they never thought they’d see,” said Samuels, whose goal is to make it to the NCAA Tournament. “I’m changing. Maybe next year I’ll be more of a vocal leader. We’ll work on that.”

A criminal justice major, Samuels is also working on two minors, social work and sociology. Her focus is toward social work and working with people in the criminal justice system. Her understanding of team dynamics will always play a role.

“We’ve had new people join the team, and for them it’s not easy coming to a new team,” Samuels said. “We try our best to make everyone feel at home. Doing that in the beginning made everyone a lot more comfortable with each other. We all became one big family. Everything we do, we support each other.”

Seton Hall lost to St. John’s University 76–51 in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Samuels’ NCAA dreams will likely have to wait until next year, but the Pirates could see post-season play in either the WNIT or WBI.