By: Andrew Billey '12
BEREA, OHIO -- Change can be good. So far, for Baldwin-Wallace junior forward Chris Ameen (Broadview Heights), and this season's edition of the Yellow Jacket men's basketball team, change has been good.
As both a freshman and sophomore, Ameen was a starter and the team's leading rebounder. This season, change involved his relinquishing his starting role and learning to come off the bench. However, that change hasn't changed his contributions to B-W's 4-1 start, including playing a key role in a 93-74 upset win last Saturday (Dec. 3) of fourth-ranked (www.d3hoops.com Division III national poll) Marietta College in the Rudolph Ursprung Gymnasium of the Lou Higgins Center in Berea.
"Chris is doing a great job of coming off the bench and adding strength and depth," said fourth-year Head Coach and B-W grad Duane Sheldon, who won his 100th collegiate game when B-W beat Marietta. "Whether he's playing with the starters or the guys from our second unit, Chris' contribution has been significant.
"Chris brings an infectious enthusiasm to the floor," continued Sheldon.
Entering tonight's 7:30 p.m. game at Heidelberg University, Ameen is scoring 7.3 points and grabbing 5.3 rebounds per game while averaging 16.2 minutes of playing time per game. He also has shown a propensity to knock down the three-pointer with four in the first five contests.
Last year, Ameen grabbed 6.1 rebounds per game, which was good for seventh in the Ohio Athletic Conference. In 2009 as a freshman, he led the team with 5.7 rpg. Not surprisingly, Ameen leads the way in more aspects of life than just basketball.
Ameen, who came to Baldwin-Wallace via Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, is a psychology major. His aspirations rise well beyond rebounds and scoring points. Chris's goal is to become a Child Psychologist and his decision in making that choice centers on past volunteer work and a strong family foundation.
Ameen succumbed to volunteer work well before college. Each year, Ameen and his family take part in giving Christmas to a family in need through a program at St. Augustine Church.
"Ever since I can remember, we've bought gifts for a family, wrapped them, put names on them, and delivered them," said Ameen.
At the age of five, his mom dressed him like Santa Claus to pass out candy canes to patients in a local hospital. Ameen was not comfortable being around people in this setting, but his mother was helping him to become a stronger person. This was his first lesson of stepping outside of his comfort zone.
"I used to be really nervous around that kind of thing, but I'm not anymore," said Ameen. "My mom was teaching me a valuable lesson and helping me to become a better person."
Chris is very devoted and proud of his family. While his dad concentrated on being a strong provider, he also gave Chris sound advice.
He recalls his dad pushing him to "work on that left hand."
Today, Chris prefers to use his left hand when playing in the post. Chris's mom and grandmother helped him grow and understand the importance of doing the right thing. Ameen refers to his mom as one of his "biggest positives."
Chris states, "She is my voice of reason." When his mom worked, Chris would often spend time with his grandmother. Besides watching sporting events and yelling at the Cleveland Indians on television, his grandmother helped him develop strong traits as a person. "My grandma was the motivator to do the right thing," says Ameen. "I have always been told to do the right thing, don't let anybody tell you different, be a leader, not a follower."
In eighth grade, Ameen's uncle coached his basketball team and led them to numerous wins. Chris credits his uncle to evolving his post skills.
"He taught me what to do in the post, what to look for, and how to defend," recalls Ameen. Chris readily admits "I'm 20 years old and still learning from my parents."
Chris has taken family advice to heart. He has lived by it and shown it when providing community service. His later years at Walsh Jesuit High School included volunteering at a nearby nursing home. Numerous days were spent calling bingo numbers and visiting patients.
"My time spent there [at the high school and volunteering] gave me a sense of joy in seeing how happy the people got," said Ameen. "If what we did helped to make just one person smile, it was well worth the time and effort."
He also recalls an Alzheimer's patient. "We had the same conversation every weekend for eight weeks," added Chris. "The experience I had working with patients like him had a big impact on my deciding to study psychology."
Ameen's volunteering and community involvement has continued throughout his college years. He has been active with the Community Outreach program on campus, was a Weekend of Welcome Orientation Leader this past summer, interned at the Applewood Center and participated as a member of B-W's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Psychology Club. Ameen also has been involved in programs at the Berea Children's Home, Saturday Day of Service at B-W, visiting hospitals and in the Michele Obama's Day at Play at B-W. Day at Play is an annual worldwide event that encourages kids to turn off the TV and go outdoors to exercise and be active.
"We had all the materials for the kids to go out and have fun," said Ameen. "We played basketball, soccer, baseball, ping pong and cornhole, did a cup stacking game and taught the kids how to kick field goals on the football field. The kids had a great time."
A Saturday Service event involved visiting a local hospital. "It was a community thing," said Ameen. "We played games with kids and let them express themselves in a more constructive environment."
Through his volunteer work, Ameen has grown. He realizes there is more to life than just playing basketball.
"I have been trying to find ways in my life to broaden my aspects of different things," says Ameen. "I have been trying to get out and become more of the person. I want to become and start building off the person I am."
Fourth-year Head Coach Duane Sheldon sees Chris as a great person with high character.
"He is a passionate person about whatever it is he's into, whether its helping kids, playing basketball, or dancing for the incoming freshmen (as a WOW Orientation Leader)." said Sheldon. "We are happy to have young men like Chris representing the basketball program and Baldwin-Wallace College."
Sheldon, who has returned to his alma mater, is building a program with the goal of winning both the OAC regular season and OAC Tournament titles and earning a berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament. With 10 lettermen and four starters returning, and his team off to a 4-1 start, Sheldon's squad is already building on the experience and maturing from a 9-16 season from a year ago.
"Chris is just one of a number of men who have been in our program for one, two or three years," said the fourth-year coach. "Just like Chris, the other men are bigger, stronger, more experienced and mature, and they know what to expect in the OAC. We would like to continue our strong start."
Assistant basketball coach and men's head golf coach, Tom Heil expressed his sentiment for Ameen as a person.
"Chris comes from a strong family. He's extremely caring," says Heil. "I think he's a great teammate and puts his teammates needs ahead of his own. As a person, he is very unselfish." Heil views Chris as a person that is very accountable and coachable.
Ameen started playing a variety of sports at a young age. He loved the defensive side of baseball, tried soccer, attempted football, and was even a good bowler scoring a high-game of 279. Chris's father played collegiate golf at Bowling Green State University, and Ameen tried golf, but did not have the patience for that sport. His friends played basketball and urged him to try it because of his height at the time.
"I liked basketball because it was constantly moving, and it's fast paced," said Ameen. "There's not time for you to think about what you just did, you have to forget it, adjust and continue playing."
Entering high school posed different situations for Chris.
"I wasn't the biggest, best or the strongest player." Chris adds, "I had to learn to be quicker than everybody I played against."
Chris admits to having a variety of coaches with different approaches in high school. He learned their coaching techniques and used them positively to develop physically and mentally as a player. As a result, he lettered his sophomore year and started both his junior and senior years. As a senior at Walsh in 2008-09, he averaged 14.7 ppg., grabbed 7.5 rpg. and shot 52 percent from the floor. He received honorable All-District honors and was named Walsh Jesuit's Co-Most Valuable Player.
Ameen never thought he would be able to play basketball at the collegiate level, but a number of Division III coaches came looking. He was recruited by Hiram College, John Carroll University, the University of Mount Union and B-W.
"I chose B-W not only because Coach Sheldon was a great recruiter, but because my house is only 20 minutes away," said Ameen. "My parents could come to every game. That's really important for me. It has been a good decision for me. I have met a ton of great people and established friendships that will last a lifetime."
Coming into his freshman year, Ameen did not expect to receive a great deal of playing time.
"I ended up starting my freshman year, which was a shock to me," said Ameen. :There were two big guys in front of me. That was a real challenge for me to overcome."
"Chris was thrown into the fire as a freshman," said Sheldon. "He's been overmatched in size and strength for his first couple years, but still finds a way to compete.
"Chris is smart young man who utilizes his strengths of quickness and desire to overcome a disadvantage in height and strength," continued Sheldon. "He also can shoot the three-pointer and is a strong perimeter shooter. He has learned to take his opponent out of his comfort zone and create his own advantage."
Ameen started in 22 basketball games and played in all 26 as a freshman. He was fourth on the team in scoring at 9.8 ppg., shot 52.7% from the floor, had 13 assists, 13 blocked shots and 20 steals in 20.3 minutes a game. He scored a career-high 25 points against Indiana East University in a 96-87 overtime victory in the first round of the Thomas More (Ky.) University Tournament. The Yellow Jackets won that tournament by defeating North Central (Ill.) College, 72-67, the next night in the championship game.
Ameen definitely loves to compete. If you've ever been to a Yellow Jacket game, it is quite evident.
"I stopped them (opponents) by being crazy, just being all over the place, taking charges, and doing anything that could get our team the ball," said Ameen said. "I used more of an agile approach in the post than brute enforcement."
Chris is no stranger to overcoming hardships. Past back injuries led to spasms during his freshman year, and a minor car accident while on his way to deliver presents to St. Augustine's, added to his need for physical therapy. Last season, he suffered a concussion in a game at Mt. Union.
"I kind of just bit the bullet with the back injury and played through the pain," said Ameen. "Having a concussion is probably the most frustrating thing I ever had to go through. But it's all a part of the game and having to deal with adversity in this manner has hopefully made me stronger."
Even though this injury held him back from playing to his full ability as a sophomore, Ameen played 19.4 minutes per game, averaged 9.9 ppg., grabbed a team-leading 5.9 rpg., made 10 three-pointers, blocked 14 shots and earned his second varsity letter. He also recorded two career double doubles. One was at Alma (Mich.) College on January 3, 2010 when he had 13 points and 12 rebounds. The other was against Heidelberg University on December 1, 2010 when he scored 14 points and grabbed a career-high-tying 14 rebounds.
When asked if he looks up to a particular sports figure, he replies, "One of my favorite NBA players is Dennis Rodman."
"I admire his defensive game, continued Ameen. "When Rodman wanted the ball, he would go and get it. He wouldn't let anybody push him around."
Heil sees a similarity to Rodman in Ameen's play and high level of energy.
"When he plays as hard as he can with that high motor, like Dennis Rodman, he's fun to watch," says Heil.
Ameen feels rebounding is his best skill and asset. He also feels that to be a good rebounder that you have to have the attitude of wanting the ball more than your opponent. Again, if you've ever seen him play and rebound, that is quite apparent. Ameen is the first to admit that he needs to improve and mature in his game. It is a struggle for him to let things go on the court. As a psychology major, he understands this and constantly works to become a positive player.
Sheldon jokes, "If your major is child psychology, you should have this figured out." On a serious note, Sheldon feels maturity will allow Ameen to fight through these experiences and help him.
Ameen does not hesitate in giving credit to all his coaches for being his "enablers." "They (my coaches) gave me a confidence in my ability to play basketball," said Ameen.
Teammate and senior All-OAC point guard Promis Cabbil (Elyria) agrees.
"Right now he's in the gym working hard," said Cabbil when being interviewed for this story. "Coming in early to shoot before practice by himself, that's showing initiative and his role as a leader."
Heil refers to Ameen's leadership style as being "infectious" and "vibrant."
Ameen takes pride in being a student-athlete and not just an athlete.
"To be a great person you need to be a great student of life," said Ameen, who maintains a grade point average above 3.5 and was named as a Jacket Scholar last spring. "I want to be a great student and learn as much as possible."
Heil states, "Our number one priority is academics." Last spring, the team GPA recorded was the highest in men's sports at 3.1. Ameen is grateful for his education and devotes much time to his schoolwork. He adds, "I want to take pride in who I am and prove to myself and others that I can achieve."
A busy schedule limits Ameen to what he can offer others outside of school, but he displays service to others daily. He defines service as "helping somebody for their benefit."
His teammate, Cabbil adds, "Chris really cares for people and he demonstrates it at all times."
Ameen feels that little things make a difference like opening a door, grabbing someone a cup of coffee, or just listening.
"You can always grow by going out of your way and making somebody else's day rather than thinking about yourself," said Ameen. "The person I want to become is someone that helps other people and that is my service."
Ameen admits, "When I was younger, I got made fun of a lot. I was clumsy. I was taller than everybody. I was falling down a lot. But, I had my parents there to be my backup and keep pushing me."
Coming from a family with substantial parental guidance and support, Ameen wants to focus on children who are not as fortunate.
"I want to know what is going on in their (children) head so I can try to help them rather than give them medicine and kick them out of my office," said Ameen. "It's important to know what they are thinking and why they are thinking that way. That will help in finding a solution to the situation, and in the long-run, help them to understand themselves."
Ameen's life situations and motivation to help others were big factors in his decision to study psychology. His attributes exceed far beyond his 20 years of age. His ambitious nature exemplified in basketball and life can teach us all the importance of doing "the right thing" in achieving our goals.
Following its game at Heidelberg, Ameen and the Yellow Jackets return to Berea to prepare for a Dec. 10 game at Wilmington College.
FOR MORE B-W Sports Information, please contact Sports Information Director Kevin Ruple by telephone at 440-826-2327 and e-mail at email@example.com. or Assistant SID Jeff Miller by phone at 440-826-2780 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org Fans can access the latest B-W athletics information at www.bw.edu/athletics and we invite you to join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bwyellowjackets and Twitter at http://twitter.com/bwathletics.