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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 18, 2002

Walk-ons wanted to play before their family, friends

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Ikaika Alama-Francis and Ramsey Williams are right where they always wanted to be.

Ikaika Alama-Francis, left, and Ramsey Williams, both former all-state high school first-team selections in Hawai'i, will continue their basketball careers as walk-ons for the University of Hawai'i.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

At home, playing basketball for the University of Hawai'i.

If that means paying their way through school and battling for positions on the scout team, then fine.

"I figured if I wanted to stay in the Islands, I wanted to be with the best program in the Islands," said Alama-Francis, a 6-foot-7 freshman forward.

Williams, a 5-11 junior point guard, added: "I went through some things that took me to different places, but this is the place I always wanted to be."

Alama-Francis and Williams are in their first week as walk-ons with the Rainbow Warriors.

Even though they are not on athletic scholarships, Alama-Francis and Williams are relying on athletic ability in their pursuits of the local-boy-makes-good story.

"If you're a walk-on, you need to have a burning desire to hustle and get better," UH head coach Riley Wallace said. "These two kids are showing that so far. And what sets them apart maybe from some other walk-ons we've had in the past is that they're coming here with a lot of basketball talent."

Warriors basketball

• Exhibition opener: Nov. 17 vs. EA Sports California All-Stars, 5 p.m. at Stan Sheriff Center

• Regular-season opener: Nov. 22 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock, 7 p.m. at Stan Sheriff Center

• Season ticket sales: Oct. 28-Nov. 8 at Stan Sheriff Center box office

• 2001-02 record: 27-6

Indeed, both were standout Hawai'i high school players in recent years.

Williams, a 1998 graduate of Moanalua High, was a first-team all-state selection as a junior and senior. He was the state Player of the Year after guiding Moanalua to the state championship in 1997.

Williams spent the last three years at Leeward Community College, Missouri Valley College and College of the Desert (Calif.) in order to improve his academic standing. He accomplished that, and averaged 10 points and 6.5 assists for College of the Desert last season.

"I had a couple of offers from some schools in California," he said. "But I wanted to come home and play in front of my family and friends."

Williams is a crafty ball-handler, but needs to gain strength — he is listed at 155 pounds on the UH roster.

"The biggest difference I notice on this level is how physical the game is," Williams said. "I've had a (weight) bench at my house for a couple years, but I didn't start using it until the last couple months."

Alama-Francis, a 2002 Kalaheo graduate, was a junior starter on the Mustangs' 2001 state championship team, and a first-team all-state selection as a senior.

He was offered scholarships from Division I Portland State and New Mexico, and was also heavily recruited by Hawai'i's Division II programs.

"When I looked over everything, walking on at UH was still the best option," said Alama-Francis, who also turned down some Division I volleyball offers.

Already, he has impressed the UH coaching staff with a versatile inside-out game and an eagerness to play any position.

"Considering he's a true freshman, he could turn out to be one of the most talented walk-ons we've ever had," Wallace said. "He's a good athlete, he's strong, and he's got some size. He just has to keep working hard at it and start learning the things we do."

Alama-Francis compared his current situation to his first year at Kalaheo, when he made the varsity team as a freshman and spent most of the time on the bench.

"This is a learning stage," he said. "But I'm going to work as hard as needed to eventually get to the starting level."

It probably helps both Alama-Francis and Williams to have inherited athletic genes.

Alama-Francis' father, Joe Francis, was a star football player at Kamehameha and then Oregon State. He also played in the NFL as a back-up quarterback to Bart Starr with the Green Bay Packers.

"To this day, he wants me to play football," Alama-Francis said.

Williams' father, Charles Williams, was a reserve on UH's "Fabulous Five" basketball teams in the early 1970s.

"I heard he was a ball hog," Ramsey said. "But he still helps me out. He wants me to get better and make this work out."