POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 24, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 2:32 a.m. HST, Feb 24, 2011
This is the senior week that forward Bill Amis thought might never be his.
It is the college career that seemed a reach too far, in a place even more distant.
As Amis prepares for his final two home regular-season University of Hawaii basketball games — tonight against Louisiana Tech and Saturday vs. New Mexico State — it is hard for him to view it from anything other than a pinch-me perspective.
How, for instance, did someone who only played one varsity season at Putnam City (Okla.) High and was a sixth or seventh man even through freshman and junior varsity years manage a college scholarship?
How did somebody who didn't even start for his Pratt Community (Kan.) College team end up in Division I, not to mention becoming the best player at UH?
"I'm sure my parents and my (high school) coaches are surprised," Amis said. "I'm surprised. It has been quite a ride."
The gangly kid who kept growing like a beanstalk had a long way to go for his talents to catch up with his eventual 6-foot, 9-inch height and even loftier ambitions.
"Billy was a late bloomer," said A.D. Burtschi, the coach at Putnam High. "The truth of the matter was that when he was a freshman, he could hardly make it down and back running the court."
But as Burtschi chuckles at the first 2003 glimpses of Amis, he'll also tell you that the picture of the one they call "Our Billy" on the school's "Wall of Fame" is there for a reason. Several, really.
Even if his right foot didn't always know where the left one wanted to go, Amis did and he was dedicated to doing what it took to get there. "You could see he would be good at whatever he ended up doing," Burtschi said.
And what "Billy" wanted was to play basketball. And keep on playing it after high school. Hoops was fun at Putnam, the 6A (large school) Oklahoma state champion in Amis' final year.
Part of the reason Amis was a reserve is that the Pirates had 6-8 Keith Clark, who went on to play at Oklahoma, and is in the NBA's Developmental League, ahead of him on the depth chart. So, too, was Xavier Henry, who, at 6-6, played at Kansas and was a first-round pick of the Memphis Grizzlies.
But Amis had a soft shooting touch and an inner drive that kept him working tirelessly in the offseason, especially following his senior year. "He kept at it, whatever you asked of him," Burtschi said. "He never quit."
Plus, Burtschi says, "You could see he had what I like to call a good basketball IQ."
All traits that have served Amis well in four challenging seasons at UH. Tribute has been paid to them with two seasons as a team captain and his 14.7 scoring and 7.3 rebounding averages this season.
Amis had not known a losing season or debilitating injury until he came to UH, where a foot injury cost him the entire 2009-10 season and part of this one. But he has persevered through three losing seasons and physical ailments just as he has everything else.
The only game Amis started before coming to UH was his final regular-season one at Putnam, Burtschi said. "That's because we start all our seniors."
At the time, Amis said, "I didn't know if I would get a chance to play college ball. I thought it would be my last game."
Amis wouldn't let it be, which is another reason why this week on the Stan Sheriff Center court will be all that sweeter.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.