Pleasanton couple's dog a winning wiener

"In the seven years they have been together, Patrick Major has seen Sammy Davis transform from a playful pet to one of the fastest dachshund racers in the state. Even though he stands only about 6 inches tall, Sammy can pump his stubby little legs and leap through the air to catch Frisbees nearly as big as he is. And, this pooch was a doggie pinup in the International Disc Dog calendar three years running." Read More Here

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Danville to Lithuania: Omar Samhan, by Alec Tappin

You can’t teach 6 foot 11 inches.  Omar Samhan was born in the Oakland Children’s Hospital on November 3, 1986.  From the moment he was born he knew that he was destined to play basketball.  Born of an Irish mother and an Egyptian father, a basketball was put in Omar’s hands from birth.  “I started playing basketball as soon as I could walk,” said Omar.  “My grandfather on my mother’s side was a 6 foot 9 inch semi-professional basketball player in San Francisco and played at the Kezar Pavilion.”  The Kezar Pavilion is a famous basketball gym built in 1924 on Stanyan St. in San Francisco.  Currently, they hold the Pro-Am summer league where players like Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway, and Omar Samhan have all participated.  “The Pro-Am summer league was a great experience and it made it that much more special knowing that my grandfather had been playing under the same roof a couple decades earlier,” stated Omar.

Beginning his career here in Danville, Omar attended Green Valley Elementary and Los Cerros Middle School.  During these early years he played in the local CYO league and was always the starting center.  I remember when I first moved here and came out for my first Danville CYO try-outs and noticed the 6 foot 1 inch 12 year old.  Not only was his size always intimidating, but so was his confidence.  He was always talking so that everyone would hear him and that we did.  Once he stepped on the basketball court he always wanted to win and he used his height and confidence to show his opponents that he meant business.  By his freshman year he was 6 foot 8 inches and made the Monte Vista High School varsity team.  He transferred to San Ramon Valley High School after that year where he stayed for the rest of his high school career.

In  the summer of 2002 the annual basketball summer camp had just started at San Ramon Valley High School and for the first time, Omar stepped into the SRV basketball gym.  We looked at this man-child with mixed feelings and did not know what to expect.  That year, Omar and four more of us sophomores made the varsity squad, something that a varsity team had never seen before.  Led by head coach, John Raynor, we soon understood that coach was building a team destined for greatness.  “Coach Raynor is one of my biggest inspirations,” said Omar.  “It wasn’t only the basketball skills that helped me most, but his life lessons.  Raynor taught me how to be a man, to fight through adversity, and these are lessons that still help me today.”  By Omar’s senior year he led the team to the East Bay Athletic League and Northern California Championships.  Afterwards the team made it to the semi-finals for state where Omar battled against, Ryan Anderson, currently an active player in the NBA for the Orlando Magic.  Although, the 2005 SRV basketball team fell short by one point to Ryan Anderson and Oak Ridge High School, Omar’s career was just beginning.

Omar attended Diablo Valley College following his senior year at San Ramon and after one semester he was picked up by Randy Bennett and the Saint Mary’s College Gaels.  By this time, Omar was now 6 foot 11 inches, a hair less than 7 foot, and was struggling with weight problems.  Although, he had some of the softest hands that one has ever seen from a big man, his weight always held him back.

The transition from high school to college ball was exactly what Omar needed and he eventually took advantage of it.  “It was a huge transition that I was not originally ready for.  It was a grind every day, all day all I did was play basketball and go to class.  At first it was overwhelming, but thankfully I was in an environment like Saint Mary’s College where everyone was supportive and helpful,” said Omar.  While at Saint Mary’s College he was able to play with some of the college’s best athletes like Daniel Kickert, Diamon Simpson and Patty Mills who now plays in the NBA for the Portland Trail Blazers.  “Every player on my team had a huge impact on me.  I looked up to the guys like Kickert who I thought I could never be like.”

Each year, the Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga feud grew and Omar was the first to antagonize it.  “I’m not afraid to admit that I don’t like Gonzaga.  I welcome competition and I want to give the fans what they want-drama,” Omar professed.  From the beginning of his college career he created much drama between the Gonzaga basketball team and their coach, Mark Few.  After years of coming up short, it was finally Omar’s turn to lead the St. Mary’s team.  As a senior he continued his career as a winner and his team won the West Coast Conference championship.  Following the WCC title, he then took the team to the Sweet 16 in March, the furthest any Saint Mary’s basketball team had ever competed in the tournament.

This past month it was the Omar Samhan bobble head night at Saint Mary’s where the Saint Mary’s team passed out Omar bobble heads to the first 2000 fans.  Now, in Lithuania, Omar had one of the bobble heads mailed to Gonzaga coach Few with a card stating, “Thank you for all of your support. Love, Omar.”  Thus, displaying his ongoing efforts to continue the Saint Mary’s-Gonzaga hype.

After graduation from St. Mary’s in 2010, Omar signed a three year contract in the EuroLeague with the Lithuania national team, Zalgiris.  He continues to pursue his dream to one day play in the NBA and works hard every day to improve on his game.  “This is now my job and my life.  I have one focus and that is basketball,” says Omar.

“My other passion is giving back to the community.  Currently, I work with the Hayward Youth Academy and sponsor some of their events.  In February, HYA and I are working together to bring kids to Saint Mary’s College to show them the importance of going to college and treat them to one of the basketball games.  I think it is important to help the youth, not only in the less fortunate areas, but in all communities because everyone deals with difficulties.”

Omar is a unique athlete that reveals to everyone that anything can be accomplished through hard work and dedication.  His journey from Danville to Lithuania has been eye opening to us all and we wish him the best in accomplishing his goal to one day play in the NBA.

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