Congratulations to senior Amari Oliver, the 2015 winner of the Best of Preps Dedication Award!
Amari Oliver had every reason to miss a basketball practice or two. The Savannah Country Day senior entered the year with two bad knees — surgically repaired knees that cut into her high school athletic career.
But Oliver, the winner of the Best of Preps Chatham Orthopaedic Association Dedication Award, laughed at the mere suggestion.
“I couldn’t physically give up. I love the game too much,” she said.
Oliver displayed her character every day in basketball summer camp — just by showing up and dressing out, Hornets’ former girls basketball coach Dale Parker said. Oliver wasn’t going to play, but she wanted to be there.
“I should be ready,” she said. “I’m part of the team. I can still learn when they go over plays.”
Unknowingly, Oliver was making an impact.
“It was amazing how supportive she was,” Parker said. “She showed a lot of dedication to her teammates and coaches. You don’t see that often.”
Finally healthy for the first time since her freshman year, Oliver was one of the top athletes in Savannah as a senior. She starred in volleyball, girls basketball and track.
In volleyball, she was among the area leaders in kills (241), digs (196) and aces (57) while helping the Hornets advance to the second round of the Class A volleyball playoffs.
In basketball, Oliver, a 5-foot-8 forward, averaged 12.2 points and 9.3 rebounds as SCD posted a 27-3 mark.
In track, she set a school record by throwing the shot put 33 feet, 9 ¾ inches and placing seventh at sectionals. At state, she was even better, finishing sixth with a toss of 36-2 — another school record.
“She kind of does it all,” Parker said.
SCD volleyball coach Bobbi Mock saw Oliver’s love of sports up close.
“Sometimes we’d be coming home from a long bus ride and everyone would be a little tired, but Amari would say, ‘Let’s just stay on the bus,’” Mock said. “Team is like family for her. She feels like she’s part of our family and we feel like we’re part of hers.”
Injuries almost ended that. Oliver tore her anterior cruciate ligament during a soccer game as a freshman. It made her exchange soccer for volleyball.
But that didn’t end her battle with injuries. Before her junior year, she tore her left ACL in a summer league basketball game.
And there was other pain in her life. Her father Greg Oliver, who coached boys basketball at Jenkins High, died after a bout with cancer when she was in the eighth grade.
“Every game I think about him,” Amari said. “My dad wanted the best for me and took me to some of the (Jenkins) practices and I’d do some of the things they did.”
Oliver said she still hears her father’s words, “Go up,” in her mind — a constant reminder to jump when taking shots.
“I would say that I have more mental toughness than I think I do,” Oliver said. “I’m not someone who runs away (from problems). I go to the roots of the problem.”
Oliver said she’ll attend Mercer University in the fall and try to walk-on the basketball team. And she’d like to take classes geared around athletic training.
She already has some first-hand experience.
“I had some great trainers who helped me get back in the game,” Oliver said. “I’d like to do that for someone else.”LONG DESCRIPTION to read the article from Savannah Morning News.