by CHARLES LIPPOLIS, Staff Writer
After two perilous knee injuries, most people would have counted sophomore guard Samson Usilo out.
But Usilo’s own will power, assisted by the support of his family, teammates and coaches helped him make his return.
“I learned a lot. The kind of injury I had, I had to learn what to do and what not do,” Usilo said, reflecting on the time he spent injured.
For the sophomore from Lagos, Nigeria, it has been a long road to get back on the court. In his first preseason as a Jasper, Usilo suffered an ACL injury that put him on the shelf for the entirety of his freshman year.
Usilo came into Manhattan as the marquee recruit out of Nazareth High School, in a class that also included Calvin Crawford and Zane Waterman, two of Manhattan’s most consistent players over the last two seasons.
But as if missing his first season wasn’t enough, setbacks along the path to recovery forced Usilo to sit out his second year as well.
Even though the soft-spoken engineering student was forced to watch his teammates battle each day without him, he was still able to grow, and able to learn from the people he was surrounded by on the team.
One of those people was head coach Steve Masiello, who watched the development of a young man they knew would contribute as a junior in high school.
“His ambition, whether it’s in engineering, or communications, or the way he ties his shoes, Masiello said. “I just think it’s a way for him, a lifestyle for him. It’s very disciplined and very impressive.”
This mentality has helped Usilo persevere through his injuries, and has helped him to finally return to the court as a redshirt sophomore. However, Usilo would not have been able to make it back to court if it wasn’t for his family.
“It was tough, coming in with a lot of expectation, people ask questions,” Usilo said. “With their support and their encouragement I was able to get through”.
His family was not alone, as Usilo harped on the fact that he surrounded himself with positive people who helped him on his journey. These people weren’t just back at home, but on campus, in the classroom and on the basketball court.
Senior guard Tyler Wilson has seen it all. In his fourth and final year, Wilson has been a contributor on two MAAC championship teams, and has watched Usilo fall, get back up and fall again. Through those struggles, Wilson was able to learn from his teammate.
“I knew he was a strong guy, but I found out he was really mentally tough,” Wilson said. “He’s going to help us a lot.”
While even Usilo admits to a little rust, he has already been on the floor regularly helping the team.
With an injury to Preseason 2nd Team All-MAAC member Rich Williams, Usilo’s minutes have seen an uptick and have been valuable, as his role as a wing player while Williams sits is imperative to the team’s success. Through seven games this season, Usilo is averaging 12.7 minutes and 2.7 rebounds per game.
With his comeback complete, Usilo is excited to not only prove to everyone at Manhattan that he is here to play ball, but to help his coaches and his teammates on their way to a championship run.