The Dalhousie University men’s basketball team is having an incredible season, sitting first in the standings with seven wins and two losses. The Tigers have a number of stars, but Sam Maillet might be the most underrated one.
Maillet’s mix of passing, defending and basketball IQ has been outstanding. His ability to guard all positions as a six-foot-five guard gives the team an unmatched defensive versatility. Ranking third in the AUS in steals-per-game (2.0) and second in blocks-per-game (1.2), his versatility is clear.
“I take my defensive matchups personally,” Maillet said, as he typically takes on the responsibility of guarding each team’s best player.
With the second part of the season starting back up, award discussions will begin. Head coach, Rick Plato, said he plays Maillet at every position.
“You’ll look at the stats and although he doesn’t score a lot, Sam could be our most valuable player,” Plato said.
Maillet believes he could be the defensive player of the year. So does teammate Alex Carson.
“We always put him on against the other team’s best player. Our team is statistically the best defensive team, and he’s one of the biggest reasons why that is,” Carson said. The conference’s reigning defensive player of the year is former Tiger Xavier Ochu. “Other people around the league might not initially think that just because he didn’t get a lot of time last year, and this is kind of his first year on the scene, but I think he definitely deserves a lot of recognition.”
Maillet is third in AUS assists this season with 34, showing he is a valuable playmaker for the Tigers. He trails only Carson as Dal’s most-played player, averaging 29.9 minutes per game on the court. Playing alongside premier scorers in Keevan Veinot, Shamar Burrows and Carson, Maillet has a lot on his plate as the facilitator.
“Those are some of the best players [in the AUS],” Maillet said. “When you have guys like that on your team, you need to know how to find them in the right spot, which I believe is a valuable skill. I’m lucky to be playing with those guys.”
Carson said Maillet’s knowledge of the plays mixed with his athletic ability and size makes him easy to trust with the ball in his hands.
“He’s tall, long and can make passes at different positions and over defences. From an athletic standpoint, getting offensive rebounds or pushing the ball in transition, he always is able to find me or anyone that’s open,” Carson said. “It’s a good mix of his athleticism as well as his IQ of the game that helps me and helps everyone get easy shots and easy points.”
Only getting started
Even after Maillet’s dominant first semester, there is still room for growth. Being in just his second year of eligibility and first season as a starter, Maillet has been developing an outside shot that could elevate his game.
“In practice sometimes, he’s hitting six or seven in a row from the three-point line. Once he gets that shot, it’s going to be really hard to stand in front of him if you have to respect and contest his jump shot,” Carson said. “His offensive game has grown a lot, and it still has a lot of room to grow and get better.”
Plato knows exactly what his captain is talking about.
“I joke with him all the time. It’s never been a great outside shot, and the form kind of drives me crazy. But he’s worked at it and he has put in the time,” Plato said.
With Veinot and Carson in their last seasons at Dal, there will be a scoring void soon to be filled. Maillet said he could become more of a scoring threat as he works on his game.
“That’s a role that I’m going to have to step into, and I’m looking forward to. Being more aggressive offensively and scoring more is something I believe I will be able to do,” Maillet said. “A big focus of mine has been working on my shooting for the past few years, and I’ve really got to make progress with it.”