Arizona Athletics Media Relations
It is not a rare sight at the McKale Center to see fans looking up at the replay board with expressions of shock on their faces. The replay is necessary to assure fans that what they have seen has actually happened and is humanly possible. Game after game junior guard Hassan Adams’ ability to fly through the air and make spectacular plays can leave even the most veteran fans and spectators breathless.
It was when he was an eighth grader playing in Southern California that he first recognized that his leaping ability was unique. Since then, he has received national attention for his athleticism and vertical skills. Those cheering for Arizona appreciate his ability to stun; those rooting against the Wildcats do not. Adams acknowledges this and attributes the “shock factor” more to his way of thinking than to his athleticism.
“I think it’s my mentality,” he said. “I pride myself on shocking our opponents. I tend to shock myself sometimes. It’s just a natural ability in me. With me, if I have the opportunity to score, then I’m going to. And if I have the opportunity to rebound, then I’m going to get it: that’s just my mindset. That’s what I do. I get it done and get my teammates going. I like to get everybody pumped up.”
Head coach Lute Olson agrees that Adams has a knack for keeping his teammates going with spectacular plays, but he also feels that he has yet to demonstrate what he really can do.
“He can change the pace of the game with his quickness, he turns the crowd on, and he turns his teammates on with some rim-rattling dunks,” Olson explained. “He is a good competitor. I just know you’re going to see more out of him.”
Adams’ ability to alter the energy of a game is just one of many reasons he has seen significant playing time since he stepped onto the court in Tucson in 2002. While he appreciates consistently being in the starting lineup on a talented Wildcat squad, he recognizes that each game is a 40-minute effort and each minute is equally as important.
“Starting really doesn’t matter,” he explained. “Everybody plays a role on this team and when you step on the court you are a part of the game. Coach always tells us if you’re going to rest on the floor, you’re going to rest on the bench. Our team is so deep and so good. I think anyone can start.”
The newfound depth of the Wildcats also means a new presence of youth in the lineup. On a squad that boasts three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and five freshmen, Adams sees his role as the inspirer and the motivator. He wants things to get done the right way; if they don’t, he is not shy about making sure the problems are fixed.
“My role is basically to be the motivational leader,” he said. “I like to keep everybody together. If things get rough, the team listens to me and I listen to them. I’m the type of person who will get in a player’s face and let them know if they’re doing something wrong. That’s just me. I’m just a hardnosed dude. I want to get the job done and get a W, that’s my mentality and what I contribute to this team.”
Adams’ drive and determination to win every time he puts on an Arizona jersey becomes evident in his expressions on the court. Although playing basketball is not what many would consider an ordinary job, he feels that like any other job he has to give everything in order to make it to the top, including passion.
“I always believe you have to put everything on the line every time you step on to the court,” he explained. “I take basketball as a business. This is what I do. I go to school and I play basketball. When I step on the court, I’m not afraid to express myself.”
Adams has also made strides towards being the best by representing the United States on the USA World Championship for Young Men Qualifying team during the summer of 2004. Adams and Wildcat teammate sophomore Mustafa Shakur played on the team under Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson that earned a gold medal while posting a 5-0 record. Adams led the team with 2.5 steals per game and feels he walked away from the experience as a more defensive-minded player.
“Anytime you can put the USA jersey and represent your country it’s great,” he said. “That was my first time and I am so thankful for it. I learned a lot. I played under a different coach and I learned new things. He emphasized defense, defense, defense. I’ve brought that attitude into this season. I added that level to my game and my goal has been to be one of the toughest defenders in the country.”
While Adams appreciates the opportunity to play with a different group of players, he feels nothing can compare to the family he has developed at Arizona; and even though each Wildcat spends no more than four seasons sporting the Arizona jersey, Adams says that a permanent connection is formed with each of his Wildcat teammates throughout his career at UA.
“I talk to everyone I have played with whenever I can,” Adams explained. “I still talk to Andre (Iguodala) and Luke (Walton) and they give me advice here and there. That’s the type of family you develop at Arizona. We will always keep in touch with each other. That’s one of the reasons I came here. Everybody is such a family. I know I will always talk to everybody I play with here at Arizona.”
Adams is confident that the current Arizona team is capable of going all the way, and it is completely up to the players to make sure that it happens.
“We want the national championship,” he said. “We can go as far as we take ourselves. Coaches can only prepare you so much, it’s up to us to produce. It comes down to winning in game situations. The coach may not have the option to tell you what to do. As players we have to make smart basketball decisions.”
Until March rolls around, Adams will continue to lay it all on the line every time he steps on to the court. Whether he’s making a defensive steal, blocking a shot, grabbing a rebound or once again leaving fans speechless with one of his high-flying dunks, his main objective is that at the end of the game the Wildcats walk off the court with the win.