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January 21, 2014

The 'other' Vonleh making a name, too

Whittier's 6-3 center a whiz at blocking shots

Indiana University 6-10, 240-pound superstar basketball player Noah Vonleh of Haverhill has a size 17 foot.

His sister, Whittier Tech 6-3 junior Samnell Vonleh, isn’t far behind. She wears a size 15. And yes, that’s a men’s 15.

“They (doctors) always told me I’d be 5-11,” Samnell said. “But I don’t mind being tall.”

Well, Samnell — who has grown approximately three inches since entering high school — is fine with it, except for the whole shoe thing. She admits she has trouble finding shoes her size. But her height and defensive ability has helped her receive interest so far from multiple Division I and II programs, including the University of Maine, UMass Lowell and Merrimack College.

She wants to follow in her brother’s footsteps by playing in college. She certainly gains motivation from watching Noah play at Indiana.

“We’re pretty close,” Samnell said. “I’m proud of how he’s doing over there. They had a win the other day (over No. 3 Wisconsin) and he did really good (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks). Everyone’s always talking about it and I’m just really proud he got to where he wanted to be and he’s going to go further.”

Samnell certainly has an uncommon name, which is a combination of her father’s and mother’s names, Samuel and Renell.

Also uncommon ... the total number of shots she has blocked in several games over the past two years.

The strength of Samnell’s game is her defense and shot blocking ability. Samnell — who averages 8.8 points per game — blocked 12 shots in addition to her 16 points and 16 rebounds in Whittier’s 71-62 win over Somerville on Dec. 16.

She puts a lot of hard work into her defense.

“In the offseason, I played AAU and that helps,” she said. “The different stuff you do at practice, the drills, helps with defense. Just keeping my hands up and moving my feet instead of reaching.”

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