When he made the choice to continue his basketball career at Central Pointe Christian Academy in Kissimmee, Fla., a future college career was at the heart of Julian Samuels' decision.
That decision has been rewarded as the 2020 Annawan High School graduate committed to Illinois State University this past weekend.
Samuels heads to the Missouri Valley Conference following both a successful high school career with the Braves and a strong 30-game stint with Central Pointe, in which he averaged 13 points per game and solidified his defensive skills.
"I was always interested in ISU. It just felt right," the 6-foot-2 guard said. "At Annawan, when we played down (at Bloomington-Normal) for the State Farm Holiday Classic, I got to see the campus and Redbird Arena. Plus, my dad (Mark Samuels) played in the Valley with Bradley, so I'm familiar with the conference.
"ISU reached out early, and there were a couple of others. There was interest from South Dakota State."
After returning from Florida, Samuels got right back to the court with the Iowa Barnstormers, an AAU squad based in North Liberty, where one of the coaches is another one of Annawan's all-time greats, 2008 graduate Tanner Carlson, the leading scorer in Braves' history with 2,045 points.
Samuels participated with the Barnstormers in tournaments in Omaha and Chicago, during which time his profile was raised even higher thanks in part to Carlson's efforts.
"I came back from Florida just over a month ago and had two days practice with the Barnstormers before going to Omaha with them and played well," he said. "That got a buzz going, and Tanner Carlson really helped me out. He made some calls and got the buzz going even more."
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Samuels cannot go on the ISU campus in Normal until June 1. After that date, there will be summer workouts with the Redbirds before beginning classes on Aug. 14. As of now, he plans to major in public relations.
"I'm content with my decision," he said. "I tend to be an indecisive person, so when I make a decision, I stand by it. ISU is the best fit for me. It feels like home."