Gaels' force Samhan quick with the quips


Omar Samhan might not make it to the NBA, but if he doesn't, there's another career awaiting the Saint Mary's senior center: stand-up comic.

The Gaels have caught the nation's attention by reaching the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16, and Samhan is emerging as college basketball's version of Art Donovan, the retired, crewcut-wearing defensive lineman for the Baltimore Colts whose fame increased exponentially when he became a recurring guest on David Letterman's old NBC talk show.

The 6-foot-11-inch, 265-pound Samhan showed his funny side in an interview with ESPN.com. When told he was the best big man in the Bay Area, including the Golden State Warriors, he said, "That's not saying much, but thank you."

Asked about his fondness for playing inside, Samhan said, "I think the paint's sexy."

Of his three Australian teammates, Samhan said they brought a different mix to the team, "and a bunch of bad-tasting food -- Vegemite."

Samhan knows doubters remain as Saint Mary's makes its first Sweet 16 appearance in 50 years. He's not into the Cinderella tag.

"Cinderella implies we're lucky or it's a fairy tale," he said. "Who do we have to beat for people to think this isn't a fluke? Even if we win the national championship, they'll say it was a weak field."

■ INDY JINX? -- The news Tuesday that West Virginia point guard Darryl Bryant broke his right foot and is done for the season had to bring back bad memories for Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins.

In 2000, when Huggins was coaching Cincinnati, Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the Conference USA Tournament. The Bearcats never made it to the Final Four, which happened to be in Indianapolis, the same site as this year's Final Four.

Now Huggins has to deal with another major injury that could jeopardize a trip to Indy. West Virginia meets Washington today in the Sweet 16 at Syracuse, N.Y.

The next time the NCAA Tournament will culminate in Indianapolis, Huggins ought to sequester his players in a safe house, letting them out only for games.

■ SPREADING THE WORD -- John Calipari isn't afraid to embrace new ideas. The Kentucky coach has latched on to social networking and he's getting good numbers.

According to The New York Times, Calipari's Twitter account has 1,113,647 followers. His Facebook page has 138,325 "friends." His Coach Cal application on iPhone and iPod sold more than 6,000 in the first month. His Web site, CoachCal.com, receives more than 100,000 hits per week and has had visitors from 100 countries.

"If you're not doing it, you're behind," said Calipari, who had 1,300 people wish him happy birthday in 25 minutes on Facebook last month.

When Kentucky was in New York this season, Calipari tweeted that he planned to attend mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. He did not specify which service he would attend, but when he showed up for noon Mass, he was greeted by a teenage fan who had waited through three earlier services to get his autograph.

"Hey, I knew you'd be here," the boy told Calipari.

COMPILED BY STEVE CARP LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

 

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