Tyler Amaya just wanted a chance to play for another winner. After redshirting at Gonzaga his first season out of Mount Vernon High in 2001-02...

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Tyler Amaya just wanted a chance to play for another winner.


After redshirting at Gonzaga his first season out of Mount Vernon High in 2001-02, Amaya felt ready to contribute. He did as the Bulldogs went 24-9 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2002-03.


“I’ve never had a losing season since I first started playing, and that’s something I’m really proud of,” Amaya said. “I’ve won a league title every year I’ve been in college. I’ve been blessed with good teammates and great coaches.”


But before the 2003-04 season, Amaya saw a glut of small forwards on the Gonzaga roster. So, he left.


Amaya played one season at Dixie State College in St. George, Utah, before winding his way back home last season at Western Washington.


“I didn’t want to sit on the bench for two years,” Amaya said of his Gonzaga experience.


The 23-year-old Amaya is a different person and a different player heading into his senior season at the NCAA Division II school in Bellingham, just 30 miles north of his hometown of Mount Vernon. WWU opens its season tonight in the Brigham Young-Hawaii Seasider Classic in Laie, Hawaii, against Emporia State.


“I had a lot of D-I offers come back out of Dixie. But I’d always played on winning teams and I didn’t want to go to a place where I could score a lot of points and lose,” said Amaya, whose recruiting stock rose after helping Mount Vernon to the Class 3A state title in 2001. “Western was a great situation for me. This year, we’ve got all five starters back off a team that lost in the second round of the tournament.


“I’ve got a great group of guys. I get to play in front of my grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle and my mom and dad.”


Before he left Gonzaga, Amaya rebuilt his jump shot and retooled his overall game. Amaya credits working with Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd for the improved jump shot Western fans now see.


“Out of high school, I was pretty raw,” Amaya said. “I had horrible form on my jump shot. I just got things done as an athlete. I grew so much as a player my redshirt year, maybe more than the four years that I was in high school.


“My shot looks a million times different. I used to fade away and shot the ball flat. Now, I have a nice rotation.”


That work will hopefully show this season with the Vikings, after he chipped in 12 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for WWU in 2004-05. The 6-foot-6, 205-pound Amaya was named Great Northwest Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year in 2004-05.


Amaya admits his numbers could have been better last season. He vows to become the first WWU player to average a double-double in scoring and rebounding since Rob Visser, now a Vikings assistant, in 1975-76 with 17.4 points and 11.6 rebounds.


Although Amaya says he deserved more of a chance to play as a redshirt freshman at Gonzaga, he is still using the experience to his benefit.


Those days of one-on-one with Richie Frahm, now with the NBA’s Timberwolves, and current preseason All-American Adam Morrison, who when in high school worked out with the Zags, give him confidence.


“We used to have some battles,” Amaya said. “It was fun going after it with [Morrison]. He makes you play as hard as you can. And playing with Richie made me play hard.


“If I hadn’t gone there [to Gonzaga], I wouldn’t be the player I am today.”