Weber State's Bamforth breaks Lillard 3-point mark
OGDEN, Utah -- So much in Scott Bamforth's earlier life was about losing, his dad in the seventh grade, his mom 2½ years later then nearly his own wife and newborn son at the start of his junior season at Weber State.
The 6-foot-2 senior has overcome it all.
Now the former Albuquerque player has helped the Wildcats set a school and Big Sky record for victories in a season while advancing to Wednesday night's CIT quarterfinals against Oral Roberts. Along the way the 23-year-old has surpassed current NBA rookie standout Damian Lillard as Weber's 3-point king.
Coaches, teammates and friends couldn't be happier for Bamforth, forced to grow up much too fast then given a dose of tough love to make him the man he is today.
"He's a really tough dude. He's a man," Lillard said Tuesday.
"His whole life, his whole situation, he took it on as a challenge. I'm happy to see he survived everything and came out on top like he did. But I'm not surprised, because that's the kind of person that he is. Really resilient."
Bamforth broke Lillard's 3-point career record (246) on Saturday in a win over Air Force and ranks fifth in Big Sky history with 247 3-pointers. Eventually he expects to take his family overseas and continue his basketball career there.
There were points when even Bamforth felt he had no purpose in life.
One of them came just as he was about to become a first-time father in November 2011, just before the start of his junior season at Weber State -- about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City.
His wife, Kendra, was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a condition doctors said could put her and the baby at risk of dying if she didn't have an emergency C section just 34 weeks into the pregnancy.
Early on Nov. 6, 2011, she went into the ER while Kingzton was delivered. Just as Scott was about to hold the 5-pound, 5-ounce preemie, Kingzton stopped breathing and began turning blue -- an image Bamforth will never get out of his head.
He wife was in an adjoining room, visible through the see-through partition but still sedated, and to Scott, looking as if she also wasn't breathing.
"I thought they both pretty much were going to die because that's what they told me from the start could happen," he recalled.
He was forced into a hallway while medical personnel rushed in, reaching out on his cellphone to a best friend thousands of miles away in Leipzig, Germany. They talked and prayed for 15 minutes.
"It seemed like forever," Bamforth said.
Doctors eventually resuscitated his son, and hooked him to a ventilator. Not long thereafter, his wife was fully alert again and after a few more days in the hospital, deemed out of the woods.
Bamforth used the court to escape, playing in an exhibition game the night after his son's birth. Four days later, he'd make five 3-pointers in Weber State's season-opening win over Northern New Mexico. Four days after that, he hit 7 of 9 from beyond the arc and scored a career-high 28 points in the Wildcats' victory over rival Utah State.
He did it despite sleeping maybe a dozen hours while staying up all night with his son, still unable to hold him because of all tubes and wires attached.
That story would have a happy ending.
Earlier events wouldn't.
He was the one who found his father, John, in their Albuquerque home after a heart attack had taken his life during the night in May 2002. Scott was just 12.
For months, he initially was left to care for his seriously ill mother, Elizabeth, often missing class to help feed and tend to her daily needs until she went to live with his grandmother three hours away. He'd visit as much as he could but didn't even have enough time to pack his bags when he learned she had died of liver damage in December 2004.
The resilient Bamfort again turned to basketball.
He earned New Mexico player of the year honors in 2006-07 and left Del Norte High as the school's all-time leading scorer.
He'd end up at Western Nebraska Junior College in 2008-09, where he met his eventual wife, a championship volleyball player.
Again there would be obstacles.
A dislocated left elbow and torn ligaments derailed his second season there, and he transferred to Weber State, where he quickly found a home despite more injuries.
The first week of his sophomore season at Weber he tore his right labrum, playing through the pain en route to Big Sky Newcomer of the Year honors. Despite the injury, he led the conference and ranked fourth in the country in 3-point shooting percentage (48.8).
In addition to the family crisis at the beginning of his junior season, there was turmoil at the end, with coach Randy Rahe opting to leave Bamforth at home while the Wildcats made their final trip of the season in the CIT tournament.
"His head was not right," Rahe said of the emotional wear and tear on Bamforth over the final two weeks of the season.
Afterward, coach and player talked.
"I kind of put it to Scott a little bit with some tough love," Rahe said.
Yes, he had been through adversity, but it was time for him to grow up even more and become a leader.
"If you continue to enable guys because they've had a tough situation, sometimes they rely on being enabled," Rahe said.
Bamforth took it to heart, hitting the pool and track and changing his eating habits to go from 13 percent body fat to 4 percent. Rahe still didn't know what kind of team he had this season after losing Lillard to the sixth pick in the NBA draft and two other senior leaders.
"I told them I don't know that we have any leadership, any toughness, any togetherness. We were a bit of a rudderless ship," Rahe said.
Senior forward Frank Otis emerged as did Bamforth, focusing on team rather than his own shooting in guiding the Wildcats to the record 28-6 mark.
With no NCAA or NIT invitation, Weber State is battling through the CIT, winning both games by a combined 63 points.
Bamforth has made 12 of 22 3-pointers in the tourney, the last one breaking Lillard's career mark.
"It feels good to have something that I can brag about because that's probably the only thing I ever beat him at honestly," Bamforth said.
"I'm never surprised with Scott, with how well he shoots the ball," Lillard added, recalling the hours spent in the gym together.
Even the NBA star praises Bamforth for enduring everything else.
"It was a lot of restless nights ...," Lillard said. "I haven't been in that situation, but it takes a tough person to be able to handle it like he did. I'm happy for him that he broke that record."
While the trimmed-down Bamforth has given up grape soda, candy and other treats, he is quick to spoil Kingzton, whose name he has tattooed on the back of his right hand.
"My right-hand man," Bamforth said of the toddler, a dunk fanatic on his miniature hoop set at the couple's Ogden home. "It gives me something to go home to every day. Growing up, after I lost my family, I never thought I'd have a family until I met Kendra."
Their wedding date is tattooed on their ring fingers. On the inside of both Scott's wrists are his parent's signatures -- also in indelible ink.
While Lillard was special to Rahe, he said Bamforth will go down as one of his all-time favorite players.
"What he's gone through, what he's overcome, how he's handled himself and what he's turned out to be, I love him to death," Rahe said.
AP Sports Writer Anne Peterson in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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