BRIDGEWATER – Aaron Adams is described as a goofball, someone who doesn’t take much seriously and who likes to dance. That might explain why, when he got stone-faced about playing basketball at Bridgewater College last year, it didn’t go so well.
A 6-foot-3, 180-pound sophomore swingman, Adams was practically an instant starter as a freshman last season coming out of Centennial High School in Ellicott City, Md., a Baltimore suburb. He was certainly a contributor – his 10.4 points per game was third on the Eagles – but he shot 38 percent from the floor and 15 percent from 3-point range, and was inconsistent. He admitted that his shot selection wasn’t the best.
“I think I just was so caught up in, ‘I want to win,’ and, ‘I have to score 30 points in order for my team to win,’ and I wasn’t necessarily having fun doing that,” Adams said at practice Thursday. “I was going out there shooting the ball for individual stats and not necessarily team stats.”
This season, his basketball attitude better reflects his general personality, and it seems to be helping.
His scoring numbers don’t necessarily reflect it – he’s averaging 11 points per game and 38 percent shooting, a similar line to last season. But he’s getting more assists (2 per game this year, 1 last year), rebounding better (4 per game this year, 3.7 last year) and playing better defense in part, he says, because he’s having more fun – and worrying less about scoring.
“I’m more defensive-minded,” he said. “I care more about locking their top scorer up rather than me scoring 30 points on their top scorer.”
Adams has D-I size for a guard, and his long arms give him D-I length. He also had a D-I prospect-type role for his high school, scoring 18 points per game and leading Centennial to a state runner-up finish in Maryland’s 3A tournament. He was named Centennial’s overall Athlete of the Year after the season.
But Adams is skinny and his jumper has never been consistent. And, Bridgewater coach Don Burgess noted, Adams played as an undersized power forward at Centennial, which made it harder to get noticed by D-I coaches.
When it came to picking a D-III school, though, Adams got D-I help.
His cousin, Dion Dove, played at Norfolk State through 2001. Dove also played at Bladensburg High School for coach Chris Hawkins, who was a college teammate of Burgess’ at Radford.
“Grandma and all them got into it, and next thing you know, the whole family was recruiting him to Bridgewater College,” Burgess said. “It was a small circle in regard to who knowing who.”
Adams’ college basketball bloodline continues beyond Dove. Adams also has a cousin who played at D-I Quinnipiac in Connecticut. He frequently works out with yet another cousin who has played some junior college ball.
It makes for some interesting family pickup games.
“Everybody will bring their [basketball] shoes every now and then, so we’ll kind of get a game going,” Adams said. “I kind of stay out of it, but the older heads will get in. … I just try to let them do their thing, have their moment to shine.”
But, through his occasionally frustrating freshman year at BC, he did go to his cousins for advice.
“They’d give me some words of wisdom – ‘Be patient, stay hungry,’” Adams said.
It helps now that Adams is treating BC games more like pickup games. He’s also providing scoring to a young Eagles team (3-2) that needs it, with Ronnie Thomas the only other returning double-digit scorer from last season.
He still shoots a lot, and he’s still not shooting that great. He’s made 19 of 50 field goals (38 percent) and is 1-of-7 on 3-pointers (14.3 percent) so far this season, and he admits that there are few shots on the floor that don’t tempt him.
“I just have that aggressive nature,” he said. “…I don’t stay in the gym all times of the day just to not shoot the ball at all. I’d rather get up some shots, and worst come to worst, I miss ’em. Eventually, I’m going to make one.”
Burgess said he’s fine with Adams’ shot selection, particularly this year. And, really, the only bad-shooting game he had was when he went 4-of-16 in a win over Elizabethtown – outside of that, he’s shot 44 percent (15-of-34).
Even in his bad-shooting game, though, Thomas said he saw a difference in Adams from last season.
“He’s more team-oriented – a lot more,” Thomas said. “The second game of the year [against Elizabethtown]…he was still talking. Somebody took a charge, and he’s the first one there. He’s definitely a team player.”
Of course, Adams will always try to score, and that’s not a bad thing. His quickness and length make him tough to guard, and he’s long and versatile enough to catch and shoot over height inside also.
“He can really score in different ways,” Burgess said. “And once he knocks down that 3-ball, he’s going to be even better.”
But while Adams spends plenty of time working on his jumper, he doesn’t worry about it going in. And for him, that’s a good thing.