UCLA's Jordan Adams keeps it basic — a complication for opponents

 UCLA's Jordan Adams keeps it basic — a complication for opponents
UCLA's Jordan Adams, right, scores on a shot over Stephen F. Austin's Deshaunt Walker during the Bruins' 77-60 win in the third round of the NCAA tournament Sunday. Adams' knack for scoring points or grabbing rebounds at critical junctures of games makes him a valuable asset for UCLA. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

There was something to be learned about Jordan Adams from the five words he said during a news conference Sunday after helping UCLA advance to an NCAA South Regional semifinal with a win over Stephen F. Austin.

Adams and Kyle Anderson, teammates and roommates, were asked about the Bruins' making the tournament's round of 16 for the first time since 2008.

Anderson, speaking first, answered by talking about how much the accomplishment meant to UCLA's basketball program, and how there was still plenty of work to be done.

When Anderson finished, Adams bobbed his head, as is his habit, leaned into the microphone and deadpanned: "Pretty much what he said."


That's Adams, unassuming and straightforward.

"Jordan, he's basic," Anderson said. "He listens to music. We play video games. He likes to hang out and enjoy the moment. That's him."

Off the court, sure. On it, there is another persona.

"Silent assassin," Adams said, smirking.

There are times during games when Adams seems to pop up out of nowhere to get a rebound, bat a pass or just take the ball away from an opponent. You know, basic stuff.

Need a dagger shot with fans screaming, the clock ticking down and the game on the line? Adams and his barely detectable pulse rate show up.

"He can go 10 minutes without scoring and, all of sudden, he wears you down with his movement," Coach Steve Alford said. "He can score 10 points in four minutes."

Or a very important two in a couple of seconds.

UCLA and Arizona were tied with 54 seconds remaining in the Pac-12 Conference championship game when, during a timeout, Alford unveiled exactly the right plan for his team.

"I come into the huddle and I said, 'How about Money?'" the coach recalled. "And the guys start cheering and jumping around."

On the "Money" play, Adams came off a screen and sank a go-ahead-for-good three-pointer, then later barely lifted an eyebrow when asked about the shot.

"I don't believe in pressure," Adams said, playfully bobbing his head. "You can't get wrapped up in your mind."

This should be a stressful time for Adams, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard.

Sabrina Adams, his mother, suffered a stroke last May. Adams was faced with the choice of staying at UCLA or transferring to be closer to his family's Georgia home. He not only stayed, but he also helped talked center Tony Parker, another Georgian, into remaining at Westwood.

His mother is recovering, and came with the family to Las Vegas to see Adams skewer Arizona. The family is expected to be in Memphis, Tenn., on Thursday, when the Bruins play top-ranked Florida.

"His family has been phenomenal, encouraging him, making him feel like it's going to be OK," said Duane Broussard, a UCLA assistant coach.

A year ago, Adams suffered a broken foot during the Pac-12 tournament and missed the Bruins' NCAA moment — an opening loss to Minnesota. So it might have been understandable if Adams tried to do too much with this chance.

But anxiety isn't in his DNA.

Broussard laughed when asked whether anything ever gets under Adams' skin.

"Maybe somewhere down the road, but it'll be the first time," the coach said. "He's built for big moments. I remember watching him in the AAU circuit. He has always been like this."

Broussard should have seen him a few years earlier.

"When I was younger, I would miss shots and I would stop shooting," Adams said. "I would get down on myself.… I would pout."

John Adams, his father, coaxed him out of that.

"My dad told me to never worry about those things, and keep shooting," Adams said.

Jordan took the advice to heart. And now, at times, he takes it a little too far for his dad's taste.

"My dad says I have a nonchalant demeanor," Adams said. "He gets mad at that sometimes."

No one around UCLA worries, though.

"Me and Jordan always laugh and have fun," said Parker, a 6-9 sophomore forward. "We've been playing against each other and together since we were 9. This is what we do. This is the game we love."

Alford may refer to him as "Money," but Adams also has another nickname: Spider Man. Previous coaches gave him that one because his sticky fingers and cunning on defense turned up so many steals.

Adams has a team-high 93 this season, a fact that is especially noteworthy, Alford said, because "we don't really press. He's getting most of that in the half-court."

Adams also leads the Bruins in scoring, averaging 17.4 points, and is the team's best free-throw shooter at 84%.

In UCLA's win over Stephen F. Austin on Sunday, Adams broke a 12-12 tie by hitting back-to-back jumpers, and the Bruins led the rest of the way.

In UCLA's opening NCAA tournament win Friday, Tulsa was within five points before Adams opened the second half with a three-point basket and followed that with a three-point play on a layup and foul shot.

Said Anderson: "If he missed nine shots, we'd still trust him with the 10th."

And the 11th.…

"He has a phenomenal concentration style," Broussard said. "No matter what the distractions are, he focuses on what he needs to focus on."

Asked about Broussard's comment, Adams had a typical reply.

"That's pretty much it," he said.

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