KWU’s Amanda Hill Won’t Quit
A national championship cancelled, online classes, an emergency room beyond capacity, multiple quarantines, making up missed clinicals and playing basketball in an empty gym, masked.
It was an 18-month grind for Amanda Hill.
Any one of these situations could be a struggle for the average person, but Kansas Wesleyan University’s do-it-all star has proven well beyond average.
Prior to the pandemic shut down of college sports, Hill was a full-time nursing student with a demanding schedule, playing a leading role for the NAIA KWU Coyotes.
“Nursing school was the toughest thing I have ever done,” Hill said as she reflected on her years as a student-athlete.
She was only one of three remaining students from her original freshman class to graduate from the nursing program she began in 2018 at KWU. The nursing school grading scale is less flexible than the rest of the academic programs at KWU, so a grade of 79% or lower means you fail.
During finals week, she also had two games. “I had to take finals all day (even take a final early), then go play a basketball game. Then I stayed up all night to study and took finals the entire next day,” Hill said.
Hill has been relentless in basketball and her nursing program, and brings a selfless approach to both.
In her junior year, Hill and teammate Kelcey Hinz approached coach Ryan Showman on senior night to ask if one of them could not start the game so that a senior reserve player could have the moment. It was an important game as the Coyotes were playing for a conference championship, but Hill was more concerned with putting her teammate first.
“I thought that was the most selfless act anyone can ever do,” Showman said.
It also proved to be a winning move as they still won and took the conference title.
Always on the Grind
In February of 2020, Hill had just completed a 10-hour shift at the Nursing Education Center — partnered with Salina Regional Health Center — before hopping onto a bus to travel two-and-a-half hours to Ottawa to help the Coyotes secure an automatic bid to nationals in Sioux City, Iowa. It was their first-ever Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) Title and Hill led the way with 23 points.
Just weeks later — and the Coyotes sporting a 26-6 record — the NAIA cancelled nationals, denying them the chance to play for a title Showman had been chasing for his 10 years at KWU.
“It was the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had to have with my team. They were devastated,” Showman said.
”We told the team that sometimes things happen that are out of our control, but it doesn’t take away from those special things we were able to do, and those are what we will remember forever about this season. There’s a lot this team will be known for that’s bigger than the reason we had to stop,” Showman told the KWU Contact Magazine.
The 2020-21 season proved to bring a new collection of hurdles for Hill’s already intense schedule.
“Due to having to quarantine multiple times, I had to miss classes and clinicals. I had to spend extra time making up for the missed work and clinicals because they can only be done in person,” Hill said.
Her days were crammed with extra 10-hour shifts beginning at 5 a.m. coupled with a full-time course load, basketball practices and games, home and away.
She was elated to return to the court with her fellow Coyotes, but said that the season felt different. Primarily, Hill had been asked to step outside of her comfort zone of the paint and inside the arc as a forward and take on a new position. In addition to her new wing duties, she said the lack of family, friends and fans in the stands made games “feel more like a scrimmage.”
Even with a lack of cheering, cut-out cardboard fans and playing a new spot and in a mask, Hill was a star. She increased her scoring range and managed to join the 1,000-point club in November 2020.
Hill thought then that she had concluded her college basketball career as an Honorable Mention Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American, a three-time Nationals All-Conference Player with first-team accolades her junior year as well as by completing her bachelor’s degree in nursing sciences. After graduation, Hill successfully completed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become a registered nurse.
That was also going to be the end of her basketball career.
An Unexpected Final Chapter
Like the NCAA, when NAIA decided to approve a fifth year for student-athletes, Hill discussed her options with Showman and her family. She knew it would be difficult to play while simultaneously taking classes towards an MBA as well as working full-time as a registered nurse.
“After graduating with my BSN in May of 2021, I then had to study to take my NCLEX in June,” Hill said.
Only a few weeks after passing her NCLEX, she started working at Salina Regional Health in the emergency department as an RN.
“I had to orient for six weeks on days and then six weeks on nights,” she said.
The variable hours caused Hill to have to adjust to a new sleep schedule, challenged with basketball practices — sometimes two per day — beginning during her night-shift rotation.
In many ways, this is what Hill was raised to do. Her parents, Brian and Deanna Hill, instilled a strong work ethic that produced rare mental toughness. It all began during one-on-one games on the driveway while dad trained both her and sister Caila — also a KWU Coyote — to be competitive and disciplined.
“My dad loves the game of basketball and has encouraged us since we were little,” Amanda said of Brian Hill, recently inducted into the Hall of Fame at KCAC member McPherson College.
Hill cites her dad as her inspiration to pursue playing college basketball and those family
relationships continue to drive her on the court. As her dad pushed her, so does Amanda push her sister.
“Playing with Amanda has been some of the best times in my sporting career because above all else she is there to win. We have had plenty of tough love moments on the court and she’s not afraid to call you out, but she will be the first person to hype you back up and cheer you on,” said Caila Hill, after playing two years in high school and three years in college together with her sister.
As driven as she is, Hill also knows the value of self-care. To decompress, she heads home to spend time with the family and snuggle with Winnie, her golden retriever.
“It felt as if some days I was living on a night schedule (for work) and other days I was living on a day schedule (for basketball),” Hill said.
After a few weeks, Hill realized she needed to adjust the way she managed things as she wore herself down and got sick, forcing her to take a few days off.
“Luckily I feel I am able to juggle things a lot better now, I have pretty much trained my body to sleep whenever I can- whether it is days or nights,” Hill said.
She also tries to schedule work based on free days for basketball.
“If things do end up conflicting, Coach Showman is very understanding and encouraging about me putting my work first,” she said.
The Year Ahead
As the Coyotes now have two new wings to cover their shortages from last season, Showman is confident the Coyotes will be ready to compete.
“We will control what we can,” Showman said. “We’re further ahead than we were last year at this time.”.
Hill is also optimistic, especially as she gets to return to her usual position.
Media and coaches are taking a more wait-and-see approach, as the Coyotes are third in both conference pre-season polls, though they’re also noted for their upside, pulling a first-place vote in each poll at the KCAC media day.
Showman has no problem pointing toward the reason the Coyotes have title aspirations this season: it’s Amanda Hill.
“She’s a culture mover, she’s pushed our culture forward; she makes us better.” Showman said. “I’m a better coach because of Amanda and every moment I get to coach her this season, I’m going to be intentional about celebrating her.”
Hill is enthusiastic to play one more season for three reasons: her love of the game, her team and her sister.
“Work comes first,” she said, but Hill has a way of putting everything first and that discipline drives her to succeed at everything she does.
Currently Hill is seventh in career scoring and rebounding in KWU history with 1,289 points and 591 rebounds.
“She came in as a freshman and has blossomed as a person and player. When Amanda leaves this program she will leave as being one of the best players to have played and to have played on one of the best teams in KWU history,” Showman said. “She is a special young lady, one that I will miss tremendously when she’s done playing.”