- Marcus Hartman
Scoring 50 points in a game is cool, but Samari Curtis has something bigger in mind.
The junior guard on the Xenia boys basketball team hopes to change the image of Buccaneers athletics.
“We want to get our name out there, like try to change the culture around here,” Curtis said. “We don’t want it to be just little ol’ Xenia no more.”
Several XHS alumni have logged notable individual careers — Doug Adams and Vaughn Broadnax starred at Ohio State, Trent Cole played 12 years in the NFL and Barry Clemens logged 11 NBA seasons, to name a few — but few Buccaneer teams have won big.
The notable exception coach Tom Blackburn’s Xenia Central squad that won the 1942 boys basketball state championship.
Nowadays, Xenia is generally overshadowed by GWOC powerhouses Wayne, Centerville and Springfield in football and basketball, but a talent such as Curtis could help write a new narrative.
That nearly began last season.
The Buccs had GWOC champ Springfield on the ropes in a sectional final at Centerville but couldn’t close the deal.
“I think about that game all the time, that heartbreaker against Springfield,” said Curtis, who had 14 points that night. “We wish we had another chance, but we just know we’ve gotta work harder so that doesn’t happen again.”
This season, the Buccaneers split their first 12 games, a tough slate that included losses to Cincinnati powerhouse Princeton, Lebanon and Trotwood-Madison.
They trail the Rams by two games in the GWOC American South, but however the league standings shake out, long-time XHS coach Kent Anderson hopes the early trials will pay off in the long run.
“If we get in that moment again, then possibly we can get past the sectional finals and who knows?” Anderson said, referring to the Springfield loss.
Having an individual talent like Curtis surely raises those odds.
The 6-foot-4 junior led the GWOC in scoring last season, and his 31.7-point average topped the league again entering the second weekend in January.
He hit the 50-point mark Jan. 5 in a loss at Tippecanoe, becoming the third player in teh area to toss in that many in a game this season.
And yet his takeaway was, “We didn’t win, so it really doesn’t matter too much to me. I just like winning.”
That reaction didn’t surprise Anderson.
“He’s a sharer — he really is,” the coach said. “He’s a very unselfish kid. He’s very confident, you see this exterior that’s very confident, on the inside he’s very humble.
“The last two years we’ve gotten knocked out of the tournament, the very next day he’s in the weight room trying to get stronger. He’s that kind of driven athlete. That part of it really makes it easy to coach him.”
Curtis shot better than 50 percent from the floor and made 35 percent from 3-point range while grabbing 5.9 rebounds per game and adding 5.3 assists through 12 games.
He has already been offered scholarships by Akron, Toledo, Kent State, Cincinnati and Xavier but didn’t sound in a hurry to commit to a school.
First he’s got some business to take care of at home.
“I would just love to break through for (our seniors),” he said of elevating the Xenia program. “We talk about it all the time, almost every day.”