(Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series with St. Bonaventure senior Jaylen Adams. Today’s story focuses on what’s next for the All-Conference point guard).
ST. BONAVENTURE — Jaylen Adams meandered the waves of adoring fans, past his celebratory teammates and up a flight of steps to a middling seating section inside a buzzing UD Arena.
For a moment, history was on hold.
Before he could commemorate this all-time win over UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, there was one thing he had to do: embrace his mother Yolanda in a hug.
His mother has been at the forefront of Adams’ St. Bonaventure career. She’s at almost every one of his games. She attaches a heart emoji every time her son is cited with an award or honor on social media.
His father Darryl has been in the background, helping to mold the Baltimore native into the player he is today. He plays for them.
On countless occasions, Adams has been the central figure inside the Reilly Center, wowing his parents with a big shot or a clutch play. On Sunday, Mother’s Day, he’ll have them beaming in the RC for a different reason: he’ll be walking across a stage.
The 6-foot-2 point guard took his last final on Saturday and headed for California on Monday. Now a client of agent Mike George and One Legacy Sports, he’ll be based in Los Angeles, where he will continue to practice and travel to and from scheduled workouts with NBA teams.
Adams was a three-time Atlantic 10 First Team All-Conference selection, the 2018 A-10 Co-Player of the Year and an Associated Press All-America Honorable Mention. He’s an NBA hopeful and a future long-time pro. Just as important to his parents, however, is that he’ll be a college graduate.
“My dad, he’s the real reason I am who I am,” he said from inside the RC last Friday. “He put the ball in my hand, trained me to this day. He’s been getting me through the pre-draft process until I can get out of school. That’s who I really owe everything to – him and my mom.
“Having them here for graduation, knowing that my mom has been to a thousand games, my dad has been on the court with me late night, nobody in here, working me out … to know that they get to come in here and see me walk across the stage, that’s a real milestone.”
ADAMS’ GOAL now is simple: to become the fourth Bona player this millenium to play in the NBA, joining David Vanterpool, J.R. Bremer and Andrew Nicholson, the latter of whom was a first round draft pick in 2012.
His path so far hasn’t been without obstacles.
He missed the Reese’s Senior All-Star game at the Final Four with a minor ankle sprain. He fared well at the Portsmouth Invitational, a prestigious event for the top graduated seniors in the country, in mid-April, but wasn’t immediately invited to next month’s NBA Draft Combine (though, named as an alternate, he’ll almost surely be there).
He’s no longer listed on most NBA mock drafts.
Adams, however, wasn’t bothered by the Combine snub (69 players were invited, with a handful of alternates). After all, this is a guy who went from choosing between Jacksonville and Mount St. Mary’s to one of the best point guards in the nation.
“I wasn’t really tripping,” he said. “Just like Coach (Mark) Schmidt gave me, it was an opportunity. So I’m just waiting for my next opportunity, and I gotta seize it. I wasn’t tripping that I didn’t get in immediately. Hopefully, I just get in.”
ADAMS ACKNOWLEDGED that he wasn’t himself down the stretch.
In two games on the biggest stage – against UCLA and Florida – he went a combined 4-for-22 from the field, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range, with just five assists and four turnovers. In the Bonnies’ two A-10 Tournament games, he went 7-of-22 from the field and 2-of-11 from deep.
He didn’t do his draft stock any favors, NBA scouts have said.
What likely – unfortunately – won’t be factored in is the toll that being the top player on a team facing 13-straight must win games must have taken, and once again ranking near the top of the country (No. 22) in minutes played (37.0). Was he banged up at the end of the year? Playing through an injury?
“I feel like everybody was banged up at the end of the year,” he maintained. “It’s no excuses. Everybody’s banged up at that time of the year, everybody’s played the same amount of games. I ain’t the only one who played that many minutes, that many games. So it was probably fatigue, but there’s more to it than that.”
The lead Bona guard knows he can’t control what happens in the draft. All he can do is the very thing he’s been doing since he was an 8-year-old kid in Baltimore, through Mount St. Joseph and St. Bonaventure: work relentlessly to become a better player.
Adams said he’s “heard a thousand different things” when it comes to his draft prospects. At this point, he’s getting his workouts set up, “trying to get stronger, a little quicker.” He’s rolling with the punches.
What would it be like to hear his name called on June 21 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn?
“Crazy,” he said with a smile. “I don’t even know how I would feel. It’s just a dream come true. No matter where it is, hearing your name called is just crazy. There’s only 60 people that get drafted; that’s the thing you’ve been hearing since a little kid – only 60 people.
“(They ask), ‘What’s your Plan B?’ I just never had no plan B. This is my plan. That’s what I used to tell everybody. If that works out … I just can’t imagine the feeling that my parents would have. I do it all for them. The joy that it would bring them would probably be enough for me.”
Even if he goes undrafted, Adams is almost certainly going to get an opportunity to prove himself in the NBA Summer League. There’s precedent, even at Bona, for taking that route to the sport’s highest level: Bremer went from undrafted to Second Team All-Rookie with the Boston Celtics in 2002-’03.
Thinking back on all that he accomplished at Bona – finishing sixth all-time in scoring, leading the Bonnies to a school-record 26 wins and an NCAA Tournament victory as a senior – Adams is proud. But he believes he still has plenty of growing to do as a basketball player.
“I think that’s the craziest part,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot of time to get better, so I’m excited for what’s next. This four (years at Bona), I feel like I left my imprint here. That was my goal, especially at the end of my career. In the last two years, you kind of knew it was coming a little bit, and we made good on it.”
ON THIS day, Adams is where he belongs: in the gym. He looks up at the rafters. Like most, he wouldn’t trade the win over UCLA, and the banner it’s going to produce, for fresher legs against Florida.
Not only will he leave St. Bonaventure with a degree, a laundry list of basketball accolades and a real chance at making the NBA, but with teammates that he will forever call his brothers.
“I’m proud of the season, man,” he said. “I’m proud of the guys for real – the guys that I could really do it with. Idris (Taqqee) is my brother for life; Mobe (Matt Mobley), too. Dris, we’ve been here together for four years, that’s been my guy for four years. So getting to see him with his family walking across the stage too is going to be another good feeling.
“Mobe as well.”
(J.P. Butler, Bradford Publishing Company group sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)