Arizona fans will get their first official glimpse of incoming recruit Hassan Adams when he takes the court tonight in the McDonald's All-American game in Madison Square Garden (6:00 p.m. MST, on ESPN). He dazzled the viewing audience the other night with his acrobatics and athleticism in the slam dunk contest but tonight will be the first look at him in an actual game for those fans who don't live in Southern California and couldn't get to his Westchester High School games.
When Cat Tracks spoke with Adams a few nights ago, he was more than excited to be playing alongside the nation's elite prep level players in tonight's game.
"I was pumped (when I heard)," Adams said of getting named to the McDonald's team. "Man, it's a great opportunity to play in this game with the other elite seniors. It just feels great."
The funny thing was that Hassan wasn't even the first person in his family to learn of the honor of being a McDonald's All-American; the pleasure of that distinction went to his mom, Connie.
"They told my mom before me," said Hassan, who averaged 19 points, seven rebounds and three steals per game as a senior. "She kept it a secret and they told her she couldn't tell me. She knew about a week in advance and then my coach told me the day before they announced it on TV."
Adams has had what amounts to a dream season so far this year. His team won the California State championship after being ranked No. 1 in the nation for most of the season and he was named the state's Player of the Year, an amazing accomplishment considering the depth of elite talent in California.
"Being a state champion feels great," He said. "I'm so happy we made it. It was a very intense feeling after we won. There was a nice little crowd in (Oakland Tech's) favor because they're from around there in Sacramento."
Hassan scored a game-high 24 points in the four-point win and he also grabbed eight rebounds and had four steals. However, it isn't the statline that truly defines what kind of contribution Adams makes on the floor. It's his intensity and his competitiveness. Check out how he describes how he plays in each and every game.
"I just leave it all on the floor," He said. "Take no prisoners and go all out all of the time." Asked if he wanted to add "relentless" to his description, Adams simply paused and said, "Yep."
Other than being named a McDonald's All-American and winning the state title, Adams has been featured on ESPN's original television special "L.A. Hoops".
"Being on the show gave me good experience to get used to being in front of the cameras," He said.
Being in front of the cameras will be a good practice exercise for both tonight's McDonald's game and next year as a member of Arizona's playing rotation. The Wildcats are expected to be a consensus top two or three team in 2003 and Hassan is ready to make his presence felt as soon as possible.
"(Arizona) had a great season and I watched them on TV all year," He said. "I think it was all because of the ability of Lute Olson's coaching. People said they wouldn't go anywhere because they were so young but if you've got ballplayers you can win. It doesn't matter how young you are. I was happy to see (Arizona win the Pac-10 tournament). I got to brag to everyone a little.
"I cannot wait to play next season. I'm going to handle my business when I get on campus. I'll play the two or the three, whichever one they need. I'm going to work on my shooting and ballhandling but we'll mostly talk about that stuff when I get there in August."
Adams hopes to be playing alongside one of his buddies, Illinois State Player of the Year Andre Iguodala, who is expected to decide soon about where to play college ball. The two met and became close during last summer's all-star camp circuit and still talk quite a bit today.
"Coach Jay (John) told me about his situation," Adams said of Iguodala. "I won't see him until the Jordan Capitol Classic on April 11th, but I'll definitely holla at him about it then."
Hassan will get the opportunity to play with fellow Wildcat recruit Chris Rodgers in that same all-star camp next week. It will be the first time he and Chris will be on the same team.
"Chris Rodgers and I are going to be roommates at the Classic. It'll be nice to get to know him a little. I hear he's a great, great player."
With Adams and Rodgers (not to mention the possible inclusion of Iguodala) coming in, Arizona is predicted by many to be the nation's preseason No. 1 team going into 2003. Adams says he is looking forward to the hype and the pressure that comes with being tagged as the best team in America.
"We've got to work to expectations," he said. "I know about the preseason No.1 stuff and I think playing in a Final Four would feel great in my first year in college. I'm always determined and I always want to win. I love winning."