Jalen Adams showcases his potential in UConn debut
STORRS – The story of Jalen Adams following in the footsteps of his fellow Roxbury, Mass. native, Shabazz Napier, has been told over and over again.
Finally, the time to tell the story of Adams playing in a UConn uniform came on Sunday. It is one Husky fans will enjoy.
Even though the game was an exhibition against a Division II team in Tampa (an 88-72 Huskies victory at Gampel Pavilion), it was easy to see why the 6-foot-3 point guard, a Top 25 recruit, is so highly touted.
Displaying speed, an ability to finish at the rim, and a soft outside shooting touch, Adams notched 14 points, six rebounds, three assists, and a block. Certainly, it was a strong first impression. It just felt like it took forever, says Adams.
“It was unreal. It was a dream come true, just being out there and getting my first college game under my belt,” he said. “I’ve been waiting so long since the middle of the summer, working so hard and getting ready for this moment.”
Adams was the first Husky off the bench, making his debut four minutes into the contest. His first play, though, was a turnover as he was unable to connect with Amida Brimah with a lob at the rim.
But he quickly settled in, playing at a ferocious pace that his coach, Kevin Ollie, loves.
“I think Jalen played exceptionally well,” said Ollie, whose team is ranked 24th. “He changed the whole tempo of the game when he started pushing the ball up the court. I loved the pace he was playing at. I’d rather put the reigns on a player than liven him and get him to play that fast.”
Playing behind senior point guard Sterling Gibbs and replacing the departed Ryan Boatright, Adams looked completely in control. If someone didn’t know who Adams was, they never would’ve guessed they were watching a player in his first collegiate game.
“Once I got in the game, like after my first defensive possession, I was perfectly fine,” said Adams, the MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic earlier this year in Brooklyn. “I wasn’t really stressing about offense. It was more defense, guard my man, get in the flow of the game. Once I got that under control, I was perfectly comfortable.”
That was especially clear in the second half when he scored 11 of his 14 points. Adams finished with two three-pointers, an explosive lay-up in traffic, and a put-back plus a foul.
Adams, along with Gibbs and Shonn Miller (18 points, six rebounds), are the newcomers Ollie will need big contributions from. On Sunday, their chemistry with Brimah, Daniel Hamilton, and Rodney Purvis was strong. Sure, it was just a preseason game. But you have to start somewhere.
“I love the way our team is,” Adams said. “We have so many pieces, we can mix and match. I like that a lot.
“The team is really, really good,” he continued. “I think this is going to be a really fun year, a great year for us.”
How great it will be depends a lot on his growth as a player. His inspiration is easy to predict.
“It’s a guard-oriented school, and offense,” Adams said. “And seeing someone from my own backyard, Shabazz Napier, come here and do great things, that was a big reason I came here.”
There was a buzz around the program when Adams committed to the school, an institution with a history of great backcourt players. His debut on Sunday did nothing to dispel that enthusiasm.