Skagit Valley Herald: Amaya back and playing for a title
July 18, 2008
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. -
by Eric Francis, Skagit Valley Herald
Tyler Amaya has been enjoying the home cooking. Even basketball nomads get to come home sometimes.
Amaya, a 2001 Mount Vernon graduate, has spent the past three months helping the Bellingham Slam of the International Basketball League reach the championship game. The game is at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Whatcom Pavilion against the two-time defending champion Elkhart (Ind.) Express.
"The first two years were something else," Amaya said. "I couldn't have seen myself doing anything else. I feel blessed to be 25 and be able to come back and hang out."
In addition to playing in Mount Vernon as a high school athlete, he also spent the final two years of his collegiate career at Western Washington University. He still calls Mount Vernon home.
The college stint was the last time Amaya played in the same place for back to back seasons.
His first professional gig was in Holland.
His second came in Germany.
Professional seasons typically last from August to April overseas, so Amaya has spent the better part of two years in Europe.
"I've been enjoying every day back in the States," Amaya said. "I had some long days in Europe, when I wanted to be able to use a cell phone, watch SportsCenter.
"It's not the greatest playing conditions, but it was a great experience," he added. "The teams I was on, guys just want to score. It's not a team I can look good on. I'm used to playing on teams with great team players."
Amaya has had those kinds of teammates with the Slam. Following the end of his season in Germany, he hopped on a plane to Edmonton and, three days later, scored 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for Bellingham.
He hasn't stopped since. Despite coming off the bench, the 6-foot-7 forward is second on the team in scoring at 21.9 points per game and first in rebounding at 10 per game.
He made the league's All-Star game game and the Slam won in each of his first nine games with the team.
Amaya is playing with members of the undefeated Sehome state championship team of 1996. As a member of the Bulldogs' undefeated 2001 title team, Amaya said those experiences helped bond the team.
"It's neat that we're a bunch of local guys," Amaya said. "We've got all D-II (NCAA Division II) guys, while a lot of teams have D-I guys. People are underestimating us. When it comes down it, we play hard. It's not really surprising. You can look at our roster, and a lot of us could have been at bigger schools."
Amaya is hoping to head back overseas as soon as possible.
He's hired an agent, went to an exposure camp in Oregon, and is hoping to latch on possibly in Italy, Spain, or Greece.
South America, Australia and Asia are also possibilities, he said.
"I'm not going to look at one country," Amaya said. "I'm going with whatever the best option is. I'm going to be blessed to go anywahere. I don't really care.
"Of course I'd like to work my way into having an opportunity to play in the States. You've got to get the right people to see you play. I believe in myself. I think I have the ability."
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