POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 14, 2010
Bill Amis isn't even supposed to be here.
Well, maybe as a graduate assistant, or the tallest fan in the student section.
But if all had gone according to plan, the 6-foot-9 Hawaii power forward would be done with his college basketball career, not dominating the action as he did in UH's 84-70 victory over Cal State Fullerton last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Amis was the bull, with a career-high 24 points and game highs of nine boards and three blocks — but that was partly because the Titans were not titanic. He had a couple of inches on Fullerton's tallest players, and used them to his advantage, going to the basket time and again. He also led the Rainbows with 36 minutes, savoring every moment, even scoring UH's final two points with a couple of seconds left.
WHO CAN blame him? Amis is making up for lost time — make that a lost season.
At first, the foot injury and resulting surgery that knocked him out of last year's lineup got him down. Initially, Amis said he wanted to return to play in 2009-10, and finish up "with the guys I came in with."
If he had been able to do so, Hawaii would have undoubtedly finished with a better record than 10-20. How much better is extremely debatable, but it was obvious that his on-court leadership was sorely missed — as much as his points and rebounds.
But for Amis — as well as the current 2-0 Rainbows and UH fans — the injury now seems to be a fortuitous break.
If last night is any indicator, this is Amis' team. He amends that to include his fellow senior and Rainbows veteran, guard Hiram Thompson.
"Me and Hiram are the leaders of the team," Amis said. "We're going to do what we can to win the game each night."
While Amis was Mr. Inside last night, Thompson was Mr. Outside. He controlled the tempo with seven assists and just one turnover. Thompson's 18 points included the final go-ahead free throws to start UH's final sprint after the Titans had tied it with 3:39 left.
THE FIRST TWO games under new coach Gib Arnold also have revealed some flamboyant newcomers, with freshman shooting guard Bo Barnes delivering the most impact and sophomore forward Joston Thomas the most flair.
Barnes repeated his opening night showing of 19 points. He's the kind of confident shooter who always seems to get the roll, like Savo and Carl English.
And he got into the Titans' heads.
"Where's 24? Know where he's at," implored point guard Perry Webster early in the second half.
It was to no avail, as Barnes dropped in five treys, and Zane Johnson plopped in three more. Word will get around not to play zone against UH, but undersized CSUF had little choice.
So far, the Rainbows have been able to get out and run. Picking their spots, they've displayed crisper transition play than at any time last season — maybe in many seasons.
WHAT HAPPENS when they play teams that are better on the boards? Tomorrow's opponent, Central Michigan, is still shorter overall than Hawaii, but the Chippewas outrebounded Fullerton 41-26 on Friday, with William McClure grabbing 15 off the glass.
Amis — who scored seven points with seven rebounds in the season opener Friday — said this is the kind of team that can and will adjust. Against a bigger team, true centers Vander Joaquim and Douglas Kurtz might contribute more.
And Amis is versatile enough to work from outside, and to do the little things. One of the most memorable plays in Friday's win was Amis laying out a Montana State player with a pick. It's hard to remember anything as physical by last year's Rainbows.
"On any given night we'll have different roles," Amis said. "We'll figure it out. On any given night ..."
Reach Dave Reardon at firstname.lastname@example.org.