UNK Today | August 2014 - page 18

Chicago — approaching five
years of rehabilitation follow-
ing the attack — and Amarah
is the leading scorer at the Uni-
versity of Nebraska at Kearney,
their bond is closer than ever.
In addition to a last name, they
share a passion that’s always
sure to come up in their weekly
“We could talk about what
color the sky is, but at the end
of the conversation, it’s going
to be, ‘Make sure you go do
this, work on this move, work
on that move.’ It’s constant bas-
ketball. It’s all we talk about,”
she said.
In season, Mike has the luxu-
ry of watching Amarah’s UNK
games live thanks to the Loper
Athletics website. Mike doesn’t
miss a game. Mike doesn’t
miss a play.
“Before I even get home
from a game, I already have a
thousand text messages,” Ama-
rah said. “He’ll say, ‘Next time,
use this pivot foot or block this
shot,’ every single time.”
It’s welcome advice for Ama-
rah, who doesn’t mind the pres-
ence of another coach in her
life. She has two coaches now.
UNK coach Kevin Chaney
helped Amarah fully use her
genetic blessings and passion-
ate work ethic. But there was
once a time when Amarah
wanted no part of basketball.
‘I have to get out’
Before her dad’s attack,
Amarah was already a
sought-after Division I prospect
as a high school freshman.
Top-level recruiters such as
Chaney, then an assistant at
Southern Illinois-Edwardsville,
came to Althoff Catholic High
School in St. Louis. They want-
ed to see the 6-foot-2-inch post
with abilities beyond her years.
Chaney chuckled when he
recalled the first time he saw
Amarah play.
“I saw her catch a ball at the
top of the key, rip and take it to
the basket, and the girl that was
defending her did not move.
She was in such shock that she
made a quick rip move and got
to the basket,” Chaney said.
“Her hands were the first thing
I noticed. Anything that was
thrown to her or near her, she
The intensity in which Amar-
ah played with — fist-pumping
on buckets, running the floor
and scoring on a fast break —
jumped out to Chaney.
Guys who played with Mike
had said the same thing about
him. Amarah had the instincts.
For that, she had her dad to
thank. But her intangibles
weren’t developed in a driveway
with her dad. He wasn’t there.
“I think she did inherit some
of those skills from her dad,”
Chaney said. “But her ability
to learn and absorb the funda-
mentals of the game is to her
advantage. It’s
to her credit.”
left SIUE
for UNK in
2010. Amarah
ended up at
Division I
Morgan State
University in
where she
thrived as a
freshman. She
was named
team MVP,
she earned
ern Athletic
team honors
and was a
Morgan State
All-Academic honoree.
But while things on the court
took flight, Amarah became
uneasy about her surroundings.
She knew teammates that were
involved in drugs and other
crimes. The Morgan State cam-
pus made her uneasy.
“You couldn’t walk from
the library to your dorm room
without the possibility of get-
ting robbed,” she said. “I was
like, ‘Mom, I have to get out of
That notion was solidified
when her relationship with
coach Donald Beasley turned
sour. According to Amarah,
she and her teammates were
degraded on a regular basis.
They were told that their
parents ‘had babied them’ and
that Morgan State was the only
school that recruited them.
One day in practice during
her sophomore year, Amarah
had enough.
She responded to one of
Beasley’s remarks by standing
up for herself. She felt disre-
spected. So did Beasley. The
freshman MVP was down to
six minutes per contest in the
final six games of her soph-
omore season. That wasn’t
changing anytime soon.
Amarah, desperate for a
change, called her old AAU
coach, Todd Hill. She didn’t
even know if she wanted to
play basketball anymore. But
she asked Hill if there was
any situation that could work.
Luckily, Hill maintained a rela-
tionship with Chaney. He called
the UNK coach right away.
“(Hill) asked me, ‘Do you
remember Amarah Williams?’
And I said, ‘Of course,’”
Chaney said. “(Hill) said,
‘She’s in a bad place and she
needs to get out. Would you be
interested if she was available?
The No. 1 thing is that she’s
very nervous about going
through this whole process
again and not knowing people.
But we know you.’”
Amarah put her faith in
“I always knew how a man
was supposed to treat me, and
I always knew what I was
supposed to accept and what
I wasn’t supposed to accept,”
she said. “It really wasn’t hard
for me to trust Chaney because
I knew the situation I was in
couldn’t get any worse.”
A fresh end
Amarah’s abilities were
never in question. Neither was
her work ethic. Whenever she
steps on the court, she thinks
about her dad, who can barely
stand on his own two feet with-
out a chair behind him.
“It motivated me tremen-
dously,” Amarah said. “That’s
just one of the reasons why
I love the game and I play as
hard as I do.”
Her motor was tested when
she got to UNK for her junior
season. Chaney was taken
aback by the lack of condi-
tioning program at Morgan
State. Amarah didn’t come to
Kearney in Division II shape,
Chaney said, and suffered inju-
ries because of it.
“Early in the season, she was
not where she needed to be,”
Chaney said. “But you saw
a totally different player the
first game compared to the last
game. Trust me.”
Part of that was physical.
Amarah lost 30 pounds over the
course of the season. She saw
her minutes and her production
increase. By season’s end, she
was the team’s leading scorer
and shot-blocker.
A new team, a new coach and
a newfound bond with her dad
have Amarah in a different place
heading into her senior year.
Mike is even trying to get
to Kearney for Senior Night,
which would be a 10-hour
drive, because he can’t fly, from
Chicago. Controlling her emo-
tions will be a difficult task that
night whether he’s able to make
it or not. If he’s not there, she
knows he’ll be watching online
in Chicago, proud of the player
she became.
Mike apologized for not
being there throughout Ama-
rah’s childhood. She forgave
and moved on. The past is the
past. All that matters is that her
present and future are bright.
email to:
Amarah Williams’ father’s shooting puts him back in her life; move to UNK gives her fresh start
• Sports Rehab/
Orthopedic Rehab
• Sports Injury
• Spine and Neck Injury
• Pre and Post Surgical
• Concussion Injury
and Return to Play
• Pediatric Therapy
Occupational, and
Speech Therapy
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Loper Lineup
Hub Sports Editor
KEARNEY — Caitlin
Broadwell rode the roller
coaster during
her high school
She had her
ups when her
game clicked and
she made varsity
at Lawrence
(Kan.) High
School as a
She had her downs when
health issues — specifically
Graves’ disease, which causes
the thyroid to overproduce
hormones — hindered her
“We first found out my fresh-
man year after club volleyball
season, which was in April or
so,” Broadwell said. “My mom
took me to the doctor and said,
‘I don’t know what’s wrong
with her. She’s really awkward,
and she looks like she’s playing
park and rec volleyball when
a couple months ago she was
doing really well.’ “
She was also having trouble
keeping her weight up and
adding muscle despite working
“They did some blood tests
on me and sent me straight to
Children’s Mercy in Kansas
City and they diagnosed me
with hyperthyroidism and
Graves’ disease. They put me
on medicine, and I was on that
for two years.”
The medications worked, and
Broadwell found her way to the
volleyball court. She also ran
on the track team.
But the smooth sailing didn’t
last, and her junior year, she
had a relapse.
At first, she didn’t notice it.
Her parents didn’t notice it,
“But everyone else could see
I wasn’t doing as well,” Broad-
well said. “It was really frus-
trating because I could never
really understand why I was
having all these bad games.
“It was really frustrating
because it was almost like I
lost all my hard work that I had
worked up to. I always would
hit balls out because my mus-
cles were really weak. …And I
was really slow. My parents said
it was like I wasn’t even trying
out on the court, which was
really frustrating because they
thought I was being lazy, and I
didn’t know how to describe it
that I was really working hard.”
And her heart was beating
fast. Very fast.
Broadwell’s resting heart
rate was around 130, approxi-
mately double what the normal
heart rate is for a high-level
athlete. When active and in
competition, her heart would
race to more than 200 beats per
“That’s a lot of work for my
little heart,” she said.
At one
she took her
spot in the
rotation but
didn’t attack
and didn’t par-
ticipate in the
action because
she couldn’t
risk pushing
her heart rate.
“It was
really hard
because there
were all these college coaches
walking around. I’m sure they
were wondering, ‘What is this
girl doing just standing there?’”
she said.
At the end of her junior year,
she underwent radiation treat-
ments, but they were ineffective.
Eventually, she had surgery to
remove her thyroid gland.
She played her senior season
and got stronger as the year
went along, and that improve-
ment has continued through
club volleyball season. Her
Lawrence High team had the
best year
since she was
a freshman,
when the
lineup had
several tal-
ented players,
including her
older sister,
Kelsey, who
will be a
senior at Fort
Hays State
this year.
drew the attention of college
coaches, too, including Divi-
sion I schools such as Wichita
State, Kansas and Tennes-
Many other letters poured in,
but follow-ups didn’t always
come. However, UNK’s Rick
Squiers persisted.
“Coach Squires and Coach
Amy Refenes were really
awesome, especially about
the whole situation,” Broad-
well said. “Once some of the
colleges found out about my
illness, they just stopped con-
tacting me. Some didn’t even
tell me why they didn’t want
me anymore. Coach Squires
was like, ‘Don’t worry about it,
we still want you.’”
And Broadwell decided she
wanted to be part of UNK.
Her mother has already made
a T-shirt with the letters F-H-S
on one side, N-K on the other
and a giant U in the middle to
wear when the FHSU and UNK
meet twice this year.
Broadwell was impressed by
the Lopers’ winning tradi-
tion and when she visited the
school, she felt she fit in well
with the players on the team.
“I’m so excited. I get a new
start and I get to play with all
these amazing players that are
so good. I think it will really
push my potential and make me
a lot better,” Broadwell said.
email to:
Overcoming the odds
Volleyball freshman happy for fresh start
Caitlin Broadwell
“I’m so excited.
I get a
new start and I get to play
with all these amazing
players that are so good. I
think it will really push my
potential and make me a
lot better.”
Caitlin Broadwell
Rick Tucker, Kearney Hub file
father Mike, an ex-NBA
player, doesn’t miss a game thanks to the Inter-
net and always shares advice as soon as her
games end.
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