A vital member of the San Jose State University men’s basketball program from 1999-2001, 6-foot-6 Billy Landram first averaged 12.7 points as a junior followed by 9.0 points in his senior season. He started all 58 games as the Spartans finished 15-15 and then 14-14 during his playing tenure, when SJSU was a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
How did Landram come to attend SJSU? What was his basketball experience? What has transpired in his life in the past 20 post-San Jose years?
“I was recruited by Phil Johnson but I ended up playing for Steve Barnes,” Landram recalled. It was a whirlwind introduction to the reality that college basketball is also a business as classes started on a Wednesday with the first basketball workouts scheduled for the following Monday. But the team was hastily assembled on Friday, three days into the school year, and Johnson’s departure to the NBA Chicago Bulls was officially announced at a press conference alongside Steve Barnes’ arrival from Iowa State.
Why the choice of SJSU for Landram? “Phil pretty much sold me on it. Being from Seattle, California was appealing with all the sunshine. I think Phil recruited the Seattle area for Arizona (when working as an assistant to Lute Olson) so he came up and watched me and then I took an official visit.”
Coming out of North Mason High in Washington, Landram initially attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island. Deciding to return home after a year, he enrolled at Olympic College. During his two-year stay (1997-99), he earned Most Valuable Player basketball honors as a sophomore, thus drawing Phil Johnson’s attention.
How did it work out with Barnes? “It was his first head coaching job and he wanted to put his stamp on the team. That meant defense first. Our first practice lasted four hours and it consisted of drills and then playing five-on-five. But I never once got on the floor.”
Sticking to his decision
Although a number of his Johnson-recruited teammates eventually transferred, Landram never wavered. “I’d already done that with the Naval Academy and I wanted to play D1. I wasn’t going to leave because something hard happened.” On the plus side, “we were mentally tough and finished fifth in the nation in scoring defense.” Speaking of other adjustments, he offered, “I quickly learned that everybody was a good athlete” and “you get by your man and, unlike in JC, there’s a 6-foot-9 guy waiting in the paint. But I was 6-foot-6 with good length.”
About the bonds he savors to this day, “I still stay in touch with Steve Barnes, Phil Johnson too, and former Spartan assistant coach Patrick Springer,” Landram explained. As for long-term friendships with his former teammates, he named “Kevin Blunt, Eric Griffin and Darnell Williams.”
Landram returned to the Evergreen State after earning a Social Science degree at San Jose State University and eventually earned a Master’s degree in Elementary Education at Eastern Washington University. Then in 2003, he became the head coach at his alma mater Olympic College. “I was 24 and had to learn on the fly. I knew the Xs and Os but I was going up against coaches who had been in place for years and I had to develop (recruiting) relationships.” Having a couple of players older than himself remains as a unique aspect of his early rosters. “I had a 26-year-old and one guy who was 27.”
He remained at Olympic for seven years before stepping aside because “we had two young kids and I wanted to spend more time with them.”
After a three-year hiatus, Landram jumped back into coaching at Gig Harbor High, also in Washington. Now nine years into that position as well as also becoming the school’s golf coach, Landram is immensely satisfied with his coaching and teaching career. “I feel blessed. I’ve taught at the elementary, middle school and high school levels and treasure helping kids reach their dreams and be successful. What sticks out most for me in coaching is having high character kids.” His advice to those thinking about entering the coaching ranks (or teaching for that matter) is “each day you have to be yourself.”
Landram is married to the former Renae Ross, a former Washington State Basketball Player of the Year who also played at Olympic College and California State University, San Bernardino.
Daughter Madison is currently attending Eastern Washington University after a successful modeling career. As Landrum explained, “At a concert with her mother, someone approached her about becoming a model and, some time later, she wanted to explore it. She began doing work for NIKE and caught the attention of some of the big New York modeling agencies.” Both IMG and The Society wanted her. “She flew out for New York Fashion Week where she got her big break as a runway model. Then came travel to London, Paris, and Milan for further fashion weeks before working for individual companies.” Madison represented such fashion icons as Tom Ford, Carolina Herrera and Burberry before deciding to transition into the college student life.
Son Will is a burgeoning football and basketball star at Gig Harbor High. The 6-foot-4 junior is a starter at quarterback as well as a starting shooting guard in basketball and recently tossed four touchdown passes in a game. “He always had access to a gym and he’s self-motivated with a high IQ. Will’s a little bit of a late bloomer.”
Despite his long ago residency in Silicon Valley, Landram retains a keen interest in Spartan athletics. “I still follow SJSU football and basketball,” noting the recent football success SJSU has enjoyed as well as the hiring of Tim Miles as the new basketball. From his perspective of a long time coach, Landram’s answer to the key for SJSU success in those two sports is “funding because you want the best facilities in league in order to compete.”
That’s Billy Landram 2021.