Lightening from Above: University of Arizona’s Hassan Adams
Try to play defense on him and he slips through your fingers like sand, try to jump with him on the dunk and you’re likely to feel the tinge of electricity as he bolt down on you and the rim like Zeus all mighty. He is the most successful player to come out of California in recent years and has repped his McDonald’s All American selection while helping his Arizona basketball team with anything they have asked him. Guess from all the accolades writers can heap on him which thing this giant on the court wants to be known for, “I just want people to know I’m a good guy.” That’s Hassan in a nutshell. Raised by the loving matriarch mother of many hoops prodigies from the Inglewood area, Connie Adams has a son that she can be more than proud of, she has a well rounded boy who has grown to exceed everyone’s expectation of how a person can rep their community, “My boy Hassan has made me so proud, like all my kids have, god has plan for him, and if that includes basketball after college than so be it.” Connie Adams is probably mentioning the autographs that she has her boy send to the kids all over the country who look up to her son, she never in the years I have known her has ever doubted that her son would be able to lead others through his hard work, studious endeavors, and kind disposition.
It’s the first week of August and I’m sitting at the UCSB Thunder dome in Santa Barbara, California jabbering with Hassan Adams about his time at the 21 World Championships, we’re just resting against the stands talking with Hassan about these 15 incredibly talented college ball players before us in the gym that M.J. has brought into be the counselors for the kids at his camp. He details how fun it was to play with this player and that player on the 21 and under national team and speaks on just how much the experience meant to him, “I loved representing the U.S. and helping us to win 1st place for country, man that has to be the greatest experience basketball wise of all time for me.”
The U.S. team really appreciated having him there to help with crunch time points, his Junior National coach who is also the head coach for Oklahoma St. named Kelvin Sampson couldn’t say enough complimentary things about Adams, ” Adams impressed beyond words for us, he lead with his warrior mentality, he definitely was the most athletic player on the team. Hassan really surprised us with his sharp outside shooting, and you couldn’t ask for a better rounded person who seemed to provide some leadership and passion to give his 100% all of the time. I call Hassan ‘sauce’, which is short short for ‘hot sauce’ because he spiced up the action out there in a big way.” Sampson isn’t Adams only coach singing his praises, Josh Pastner is Adams assistant coach at Arizona and summed up in a nice way what Hassan Adams has meant to his college program, “Hassan is a really great guy, he is also an incredible talent, he wins you games through his heart and skill, nobody wants it more than Hassan. He is a joy to coach and be around.” Adams and his mom are very complimentary of Samson calling him “a very good influence” on Adams on his game and person even though he only spent a short amount of time with him unfortunately.
All this praise must be part of the reason why George Raveling has invited Hassan to be a camp counselor to the MJ and Nike camp the past couple of years to inspire kids, but ask the humble Adams to describe how he feels about working the camp and helping to train kids here and you get a plate of classic Hassan a la mode, “That’s just the right thing for me to want to do is give back, it’s an honor to work here for the MJ camp, giving back and remembering where you’re from is really important to me in life, Darius Miles and Quenton Richardson helped me along in high school to get better and never settle for being less than what I can be, now it’s my turn to give back to others.”
Rising class of 2006 California prep sophomore from Fresno Quincy Pondexter is an exceptional player and has been recently offered a scholarship to play for Arizona, he stated about Hassan and why he looks up to him as a player, “Wow, to see him and realize what he has done to bring up the rep for us California players is an inspiration, one can just try and be the best like him and get better, all of us players around here look up to him and we know he is what we hope to be as a player, hopefully one day I can get there.” Young bucks like Pondexter aren’t the only one recognizing Adam’s talents, Paul Pierce the NBA All Star forward from Boston and fellow baller from Inglewood puts it plainly, “Hassan Adams, yeah he can play play, he’s going to be the next great NBA player coming out of our hometown in the future.” Chris Monter is a leading NBA draft scout who thinks highly of Adam’s potential as well, “Hassan has very good jumping ability compared to top players in college basketball, he is a pretty good shooter as well, he only has that knock of being a tad short for his position, he should go high in the 1st round next year if he declares and has a good year. This past year, Adam’s was the one player with the courage to step forward when the team needed a power forward to play against the average 6-7 to 6-10 players brutes that usually play that position, he states on this decision to sacrifice his body and forgo showing his small forward and guard skills, “I’m not a small forward, I’m just a basketball player, and if my team needs someone to take on the challenge of this position than here I am.”
Hassan Adams is way more than a basketball player: he is a friend to all, he is a student athlete first and foremost. Adam’s treasures his college experience and is proud to have learned so many things off the court, “At my house we have like four different ethnicities mixing and learning from each other, back home in Inglewood I never got the chance to find out about new customs or cultures the way I am now, this time in college is the time of my life, if god wants me to play in the NBA then it’s in his hands, until then I will be getting an education and learning about things to help me get along in life.” Adams is extremely articulate, mellow, and loyal; he still stays in frequent touch with his best and Westchester teammate from back in the day such as Rayshawn Reed, Brandon Heath, Ashanti Cook, Keith Everage, and Chad Bell who zren, “You only have one set of life long friends, “We’ll always be there to talk and share things together.” Hassan’s mom Connie has to be the most active mother around for keeping her son on the right track, she like many other parents of elite prospect preps had scores of college programs recruiting them, “Yes, I go that extra distance for my boy, to know who he hangs out with and how his classes are going, I knew that he could handle the work and basketball at Arizona because he works so hard at everything.” only after playing for Rock Johnson and scoring 50 point in high profile tournaments did the recruitment world start to get a sense of just how off- the-charts his abilities could be. Adams attributes his strong game to playing against super tough competition in practice at Westchester, and he was under pressure to perform against his long time friend Evan Burns the McDonald’s All American from Inglewood from Fairfax high school to which Adams states, “Every time we’d play Fairfax and Evan I’d get really hyped, that was the game to play your best, it’s all out and play your toughest game for the team you respected the most, it was very competitive but so much fun as I look back on it all.”
Someone above all others who really deserves major credit for helping this amazing young man to be “a the good guy”, that he is Marlin Morten, a coach at former Westchester and longtime advocate and helper of many kids in the Inglewood area. He came into Hassan’s life at age six and has really pushed Adams to be the player and person he is today: untouchable on the court, priceless off of it. Morten is around Adams most of the time and have a relationship that seems stronger than what most big brother in a family have as he states, What many people should realize about Hassan is that he was slept on and not respected properly as a player coming into high school, as a freshman and sophomore at Birmingham and Verbum Dei high school many didn’t realize just how good he was, but those in Hassan’s inner circle knew, Hassan and I used to have a signal to motivate him, I would put up four fingers to signify that date that the McDonald’s All American game was going to be held on, Hassan would put those same four fingers up in the air because we just knew and believed together- it’s that constant pushing him to work harder and never settle that has made the difference for him and for me.” A story that illustrates the lack of respect given Adams can be found in his freshman year when after working out in the Inglewood high school.” Underestimated Adams game was back then, these comments and the “put downs” leveled by the parents of other star athletes in the area fueled in Adams a super human work ethic that has lead to a consensus that he works for every bit of that 48 inch vertical, every ounce of that sweet jump shot, every accolade that comes from just training regime that would make some Olympians wilter, Humble is the only word that one can use to describe Adams’ off court demeanor as he states about himself, “I’m just me, just Hassan here, if I have gotten anything in this world it’s because of working harder than the next person, I’m just proud of the person I look at in the mirror because my mom raised me right, that’s what is important at the end of the day.” Hassan Adams: A good guy and one of the most rising basketball stars college hoops has to offer, what a rare combination.