Eight months after the shot of a lifetime, Jalen Adams looks for more
HARTFORD - College and professional athletes pour thousands of hours and days, and ultimately their whole lives into their sport. Fairly or unfairly, mere seconds may be what they’re remembered for, from the good (Ben Zobrist’s game-winning double in Game 7 of the World Series just last night) to the ugly (Bill Buckner’s error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series).
At just 20 years of age, UConn’s Jalen Adams had that moment this past March at the AAC Tournament in Orlando. With only .8 seconds left, and trailing by three to Cincinnati, Adams’ heave from 65-feet away miraculously banked in, forcing a fourth overtime. The Huskies ultimately prevailed, and eventually won the tournament and secured an NCAA Tournament berth in the process.
The attention Adams has received from that shot has only just begun. It’s run endlessly on sports highlight shows, he constantly has people asking him about it on campus (and from the media, too), and, undoubtedly, it will be featured every game in UConn’s introduction video. Sure, the attention can be tiring, but it could be worse. Just ask Buckner.
“I’ve been asked a lot, especially when we got back to UConn. All of the students have been asking about it. It’s a pretty great feeling,” said Adams, a 6-foot-3 point guard. “It’s put my name out there, gives my name a little ring. Now, this year, I got to live up to expectations. I expect to lead the team and be a lot better than I was last year. I ready to build on it.”
As a heralded freshman last season, Adams showed glimpses of why he was a Top 25 recruit coming out of high school from Roxbury, Mass. (same hometown of former UConn great Shabazz Napier). He started 11 games, played in all 36 of UConn’s contests, and was the Huskies’ best penetrator to the rim. In that AAC Tournament against Cincinnati, he scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds. His second-highest point total also came versus the Bearcats’ tough defense, as he finished with 19 point in their second regular season battle.
Adams started UConn’s exhibition opener against New Haven on Sunday, and was in full control of the offense, scoring 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Where he is today compared to this time last year is a big difference, he says.
“Today, I feel a lot more mellow and relaxed than I did last year,” Adams said. “Last year, I was antsy, trying to do things that weren't there. Today, I took my time, had only one turnover, which was big for me. I need to build on that and hopefully next game have zero turnovers.”
In the win over New Haven, UConn coach Kevin Ollie experimented with a lineup of Adams and freshman point guard Alterique Gilbert in the backcourt. While that combo has the potential to be electric offensively, Ollie was displeased with their overall defense, as New Haven point guard Danny Upchurch went off for 33 points and five three-pointers against them. With time, Adams feels the combo has great potential working together.
“I like it a lot, it was fun,” Adams said. “We were getting up and down the floor, and Terry (Larrier) had a nice dunk. We have to keep working on it in practice and in our next exhibition game, so when we get to play other Division I schools, our chemistry will be great.”
Adams is ready for his second season and while it may not bring an attention-grabbing moment like “The Shot,” it certainly has the potential to be an improved one for him and the Huskies, too.
“I feel a lot more comfortable,” Adams said. “(Coming off the bench) I think helped me last year get a feel for this level. As sophomore, I feel like an upperclassmen on this team. We have so many freshmen, I want to lead guys and do for them what Sterling (Gibbs) did for me last year.”