Milford Mill grad Amos is on record St. Joseph's pace

February 03, 1992|By Mike Bruton | Mike Bruton,Knight-Ridder News Service

PHILADELPHIA -- Picture Craig Amos during a break in the action of a St. Joseph's basketball game.

Thin at 6 feet 7, his hands on his hips, the Milford Mill graduate is not exactly slouching, but he appears relaxed. There is little sense of urgency about him, or intensity. The only clue is the chewing gum, which he works relentlessly.

Then he plays.

You won't see the masterful low-post game of Tony Costner, or the fluid, multifaceted style of Mo Martin. There won't be much of Rodney Blake or Mike Bantom in what Amos does either.

What links Amos to St. Joseph's stars of the past is his stature as one of the finest scorers to ever wear a Hawks jersey.

Amos says he is doing whatever he can to help restore respectability to St. Joseph's basketball.

"My role on this team with the other three seniors -- Brian Daly, Ron Vercruyssen and Matt Guokas -- is one of leadership," said the Hawks forward. "Especially because we have such a young team. You try to give the guys some purpose to look up to you."

Amos has suffered through some of the Hawks' leaner times. He would like to leave the basketball program in better shape than it was when he arrived.

In trying to do so, he just might end up as the Hawks' all-time leading scorer.

"I figured that if I just played and took the game as it came to me, I'd knock that off," Amos said, almost flinching at the idea of talking about setting a school scoring record. "I'm aware of it, but I try not to think about it because I don't want to jinx myself."

To overtake Costner, the Hawks' all-time leading scorer with 1,729 points, Amos needs 134 more points. To get there, he needs to average 16.7 in the team's remaining eight games. He is now averaging 18 as one of the Atlantic 10's top three scorers.

"Craig is one of the premier three-point shooters in this conference, I think, in the country," said teammate Bernard Blunt. "Rap [Curry] and I take a lot of the leadership role, but we need a lot of leadership from Craig."

Amos has hit 31 of 77 three-pointers this season, but he also battles for points inside and plays urgent defense.

Only coach John Griffin and his staff outrank Amos as caretaker of the youthful Hawks.

In Amos' first two seasons, St. Joseph's got only 15 victories. Now the Hawks are 9-10, and have lost six of their last seven games.

"We view the rest of the season like we viewed it last year," said Amos remembering how the Hawks won 11 of their last 19 in 1990-91. "We turned it around and started winning. We were one of the hottest teams in the Atlantic 10. We have more talent this year, so we ought to be able to do it."

Amos hungers for what he has missed -- playing for a winning college team.

In Baltimore, his Milford High team went 25-1 and won the city championship when he was a senior. His jersey was retired.

"It was pretty hard coming from a winning program in high school," Amos said, "to one in college where our first season was 8-21."

There is another reason that a strong finish is important to him -- the chance to play in the NBA.

After Amos' 24-point performance in St. Joseph's season opener against Wheeling Jesuit, Cardinals coach Jay DeFruscio said Amos was "an NBA player."

Amos would welcome playing as a pro, but it isn't his only option.

"One of the things my mother and father always [emphasized] was education," said Amos, who needs only four more courses to receive a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. "I'm in line to graduate. [Playing in the NBA] stays in my mind, but if things don't work out with basketball, I'll have something to fall back on."

Amos said he would be happy becoming a social worker and working with kids, as his mother does, or becoming a federal agent like former teammate Marlon Miller, who graduated a year ago.

Right now, however, his focus is on raising St. Joseph's back above that .500 mark and perhaps seeing the Hawks get an NIT or NCAA bid.

Amos knows that is a daunting task. His determination, complete as it is, is evident only in the ceaseless chewing.

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