At a distance, it seems like Terrence Samuel and Shamiek Sheppard have known each other for years. They finish each other’s sentences, spend virtually all their free time together off the court at Samuel’s Canarsie home, and often look for each other on the court during games.
“We’re like brothers,” said Sheppard, a 6-foot-5 wing.
While the two met less than two years ago, they became instant friends, so close that they opted to attend South Shore together, rather than going to far more establish programs such as St. Patrick (Samuel) and Thomas Jefferson (Sheppard).
It was a risk, committing to a floundering program that failed to win a single game the year before their arrival. But it worked out well for the two, who both started as freshman, leading the Vikings to an upset of Lincoln in Brooklyn AA, the best division in the city, and the second round of the PSAL Class AA playoffs.
“We made South Shore into something,” said Sheppard, who averaged 13 points and nine rebound per game last season. “We helped turn it all around.”
The 16-year-olds built on that success this offseason, enjoying a sterling summer with New Heights during which both of them began to draw college interest.
With New Heights, Samuel, a versatile 6-foot-3 guard, and Sheppard helped the powerful AAU program to the semifinals at Rumble in the Bronx and the Adidas Super 64, and the Summer in the City title. Sunday, they helped New Heights to the Hoops in the Sun 16U crown, capping a memorable couple of months.
“They really took this team to another level,” New Heights athletic director Kimani Young said.
Samuel, a speedy guard with a soft touch and limitless range, has heard from Pittsburgh, Louisville and Cincinnati while Sheppard has drawn interest from St. John’s, Rutgers and Florida. Young, an assistant coach at Harlem powerhouse Rice, described them both as high-major Division I prospects. Samuel, he said, “could be one of the best guys in the city the next two or three years. … He controls the game without scoring.”
The Class of 2013 standouts added dimensions to their game over the summer. Samuel spent more time on the ball running an offense and improving his jump shot. Sheppard, meanwhile, began to play more away from the basket, and as a natural small forward, the spot he’ll play at South Shore this season.
Much of the credit, the two said, goes to Young and the New Heights program, but also to each other. The root of their friendship began when the two met in the Brooklyn Ballers AAU program and discovered they were alike, both low key and humble hard workers that preferred an empty gym to a party.
“We like to stay home,” said Samuel, whose graded have improved to a B average.
They also demand a lot from one another. When one is tired, the other pushes him to get up extra shots. Practice is always competitive, in a team setting or early in the morning at South Shore’s gym.
“We try to force each other to do things we don’t do well,” Sheppard said. “I don’t shoot jump shots a lot in games, so in practice he’ll force me to take jump shots. I try to make him slow down because he goes too fast.”
Said South Shore coach Mike Beckles: “They stay on top of each other.”
Next up is their sophomore year, which will be accompanied by higher expectations. Although Brooklyn AA figures to be even tougher this year, the Big East of the PSAL, as Jefferson coach Lawrence Pollard has dubbed the league, the Vikings have added forwards Wayne Morton of Transit Tech and Theo Brown of Bishop Loughlin, not to mention point guard Danny Thompson is expected to be eligible.
“I think the final four is realistic,” Young said.
Sheppard and Samuel, however, expect even more. Several times, they smiled when asked about their goal. The two didn’t want to brag, but in unison said: “We want to win a city championship.”
Beckles just hopes to see improvement this season. With Samuel and Sheppard leading the way, he expects it.
“I know we’re gonna be a better team,” he said.