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Once again TRM's Samuel is tops in 3A

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
When major league hitters face Arizona pitcher Randy Johnson, they know they will get a heavy dose of fastballs. When NFL teams play the Baltimore Ravens, they know they will get a heavy dose of running back Jamal Lewis.
Even when those opponents know what is coming, few have an answer on how to solve both Johnson and Lewis.
The same scenario applied to those teams that played the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers basketball team this season. Opponents knew they had to stop senior Ashley Samuel.
Despite the fact Samuel got the opposing team's top defensive players night in and night out, she was able to rack up point after point and lead T.R. Miller to win after win.
Samuel used her skills to land the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 3A Player of the Year as a junior. On Wednesday, Samuel received the same honor again during a ceremony held at Birmingham.
"It's not only a great honor for Ashley, but it's also a great honor for our program, our school and the community," T.R. Miller coach Ron Jackson said. "Ashley has had a wonderful high school career. She is the epitome of what you want from a player. I told Ashley after her last game I never had one problem with her. I think she missed one practice and one game, which was due to injury, in four years of high school. On top of that, she is a good student in the classroom."
The list of accomplishments for the 5-9 Samuel in the 2003-04 season is a long one. Back in December Samuel broke Deanna Jackson's school record for most points in a game with a 49-point night against W.S. Neal at the Escambia County Tournament.
Samuel was not only named the Most Valuable Player of that tournament, but she recieved the same honor at the Pensacola Catholic, Area and Regional Tournaments. She also made the All-State Tournament Team where she helped the Lady Tigers to a second place finish.
Samuel, who averaged 23.7 points per game, tallied 757 points this season. That total brought her final career figure to 2,197 points, second only to Deanna Jackson on the school's career list.
Samuel was more than just offense. She was T.R. Miller's second leading rebounder at nearly nine boards per game. She was also a defensive menace. In fact, she had a season high 11 steals in a game against Clarke County.
"So many people just look at points scored, but Ashley gave us much more than that. She was a good rebounder and one of our best, maybe our best defensive player," Jackson said.
Samuel said she did not feel any pressure to come back with a great senior season after getting the State Player of the Year Award as a junior.
"It means a lot to me to win it again, but I didn't feel any pressure this season because I won it as a junior," Samuel said.
Jackson said Samuel has both natural skills and other skills she has developed to enable her to become the player she is today.
"Ashley has a lot of quickness and she is pretty strong. A big key for her is her will to win," Jackson said.
Samuel said she worked hard during the last offseason to improve her game. Perhaps the most notable area of improvement was her three-point shooting. A year ago Samuel hit one three-pointer. This year she hit 38.
"I work on all parts of my game, but Coach Jackson felt it would really help both me and the team if I could add the three-point shot to my game," Samuel said.
While Samuel plans to take her skills to the college level, preferably to a Division I school, she has not made a decision as to where to go.
"I'm not even close to making a decision at this time, but I hope to have one made by the end of school year and preferably sooner," Samuel said. "Wherever I go, I'll proably move into some kind of guard position and wherever I go, I'm going to have to work on all parts of my game."