FARGO — With multiple events on Saturday at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex, the Shelly Ellig Indoor Track and Field Facility and the Fargodome, the North Dakota State athletic department put out a parking advisory encouraging fans to arrive early and allow time for increased traffic. The NDSU men’s basketball team could also put out a notice: Warning, Jared Samuelson is back.
The senior guard finally shed the injury bug on Wednesday night with a breakout performance at Nebraska-Omaha.
It’s only been over a month, but it probably seems longer than that. Samuelson hit 4 of 6 from 3-point range and his 16 points were a major part of NDSU’s 86-78 victory, the third straight road win for the Bison.
They return on Saturday for a 1 p.m. home game in what is expected to be another battle against Oral Roberts. After breaking his finger before Christmas and separating his right shoulder after Christmas, the 6-foot-2 Samuelson is back where he belongs as one of the team’s top 3-point shooting threats.
In a sense, he’s rescued his senior season.
“The reality is obviously it doesn’t go like you want,” Samuelson said. “But I’m blessed to be in this position right now. As a senior or a junior or whatever, no matter what, you’re going to have trials throughout your season.”
This year has been the biggest trial of his basketball life. He couldn’t shoot for two weeks after the shoulder injury, the longest span he’s ever gone without doing that. There were about three to four days where he did nothing.
The rehabilitation started with a stationary bike for a week and a half. Then he was able to run.
“The stamina is back,” he said.
Being back had a scare in NDSU’s last home game against the University of Denver, however. Samuelson ran into a Pioneer player setting a screen and fell to the Scheels Center floor. The pain was in the same injured shoulder.
“That hurt a lot,” Samuelson said. “I thought I did something bad to it again but obviously it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. It went numb for a bit but I got back into the training room and our trainer said it was OK and was going to be day-to-day, so I got lucky there.”
He was inserted into the starting lineup five days later and hit 2 of 3 from 3-point range in a 70-49 win at Western Illinois. Samuelson was only 1 of 4 from the field two days later in a victory at Purdue-Fort Wayne.
Then came the Omaha outburst, which came in front of about 25 friends and family from nearby Gretna, Neb. In his four career games at Omaha, Samuelson was 11 of 18 from 3-point range.
“It meant the world,” Samuelson said. “All the glory to God for that, to see a lot of loved ones around, a lot of people I haven’t seen for a while, it was really special and my teammates really set me up well. I was finally able to knock down some shots, we played well and we got a huge road win.”
The win moved NDSU into a tie for first in the Summit League with South Dakota State at 8-2. South Dakota is 7-3 and Omaha and Oral Roberts are each 5-4. SDSU hosts Omaha on Saturday, so four of the top five teams will face each other.
NDSU, 17-7 overall, will face the Golden Eagles with Samuelson, a former walk-on recruit who was Nebraska’s Mr. Basketball, back in the starting lineup. It's a busy day in the area. NDSU track and field is hosting the Bison Open at 10 a.m., NDSU's wrestling team hosts Fresno State at 7 p.m. and Jason Aldean is performing at 7:30 p.m. at the Fargodome at 7:30 p.m.
“The biggest thing for me, especially as a senior, is you just want to win,” Samuelson said. “No matter what five are playing, no matter who comes off the bench, who starts, who plays the most minutes, who scores; you just want to win games. That’s the biggest thing.”