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Man on a mission: Senior Adams set to fill leadership role

Jacob Konst/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior forward Hassan Adams was third in scoring for the Arizona men's basketball team last season, averaging 12.7 points per game. Adams will be counted on to be a team leader for the Wildcats this year in the absence of graduated stalwarts Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye.
By Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 17, 2005
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Unfinished business.

That's the reason

Arizona fans will still be able to enjoy the high-flying antics of senior forward Hassan Adams this season.

The Los Angeles native, whom many thought would choose to forgo his senior season following a stellar performance in the 2005 NCAA Tournament, has returned to Tucson for the 2005-06 campaign of Arizona men's basketball after deciding not to put his name into the NBA draft hat.

As it was for so many of Adams' teammates and fans, the Wildcats' 90-89 overtime loss to Illinois in the Elite Eight in March left a sour taste in his mouth that could only be remedied with a successful year.

"That's the reason I came back," said Adams, a preseason Wooden Award candidate. "There's a hunger out there when you feel like you were right there and then it slipped through your hands."

Adams, who lights up McKale Center's Jumbotron (and occasionally the Sportscenter Top 10 list) on a nightly basis, is a guy many consider the team's clear leader - on and off the court.

"I think its Hassan's team to lead in terms of his energy, his enthusiasm - he's a senior," said Arizona assistant coach Josh Pastner. "It's kind of his squad right now, and he wants to take that on his shoulders."

Following the departures of Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye - the team's two leading scorers of a year ago - one would suspect there's some pressure resting squarely on Adams's frame.

A simple search of "Hassan Adams" on Google yields thousands of results, each one seemingly pinning on him Arizona's hopes for a successful season.

"(In Arizona), both fans and players expect nothing short of greatness," stated one site. "Perhaps the biggest reason for such lofty thinking is the return of senior Hassan Adams," stated another.

"Senior Hassan Adams is the go-to guy," stated yet another.

Enough pressure for you, Hassan?

"No. There's no pressure," he said. "I never put extra pressure on myself. I'm just going to go out there and have fun."

Arizona associate head coach Jim Rosborough agreed, saying that Adams' three years of experience would contribute to his ability to handle the leadership load.

"Hassan's been there (as) a three-year starter," Rosborough said. "Hassan will be the leader, and I would suspect, under normal circumstances, our leading scorer. But I don't suspect he'll feel pressure, because he's been there before - he's been a good scorer for us. He's been a good leader for us."

"He likes to accept the pressure, accept the challenge, and every time there's been a challenge, he's risen to the top," Pastner said.

The pressure must fall somewhere, right? Maybe sophomore guard Jawann McClellan feels some of it?

"No," McClellan said. "Hassan came back."

Hassan Adams

Everyone's thinking it, McClellan's just saying it: The return of Adams to the Wildcats' lineup is the key to their expected success this year.

Always a vocal leader, Adams has seemingly increased the volume in that category this year, constantly shouting instructions to the younger players during practice and giving advice on the sideline during a drill, not to mention the example he sets for the younger guys by the way he conducts himself on the court.

Forget the "put it anywhere within 10 feet and he'll slam it home" Hassan for the moment. We're talking the "pull up for the 3" Hassan. The "split the defenders and tomahawk it down" Hassan. The Hassan who leads by every imaginable example there is.

In other words, he can do everything - he's apparently even created his own kind of role.

Washington guard Brandon Roy recently likened a teammate's style of play to that of the soaring Wildcat senior.

"He's looking to play a Hassan Adams role," Roy told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer of teammate Joel Smith, whom the Huskies hope can be half as good as Adams.

"I think he's very unique because he's such a great energy guy," Pastner said. "(He) goes after everything, plays his butt off. He's a warrior, (a) competitor. He just knows how to compete."

Career Highlights

(37 games): 12.7 points per game, 6.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists

(30 games): 17.2 points per game, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists

(32 games): 9.1 points per game, 3.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals

Honorable mention, All-Pac-10 Conference (2004, 2005)

Pacific 10 Conference All-Freshman Team (2003)

Adams can even play power forward - at 6-foot-4. That capability has allowed Arizona head coach Lute Olson to play with his offense a little bit.

"The four outside positions are identical (this year)," Olson said. "So that makes it easier for us and for guys like Hassan who can play (the) 2, 3, 4 - whatever number you want to put on him.

"In Hassan's case, he is very tough to handle in the post area," Olson said. "He will be making very hard cuts to those positions rather than going down there to set up, waiting for the ball. We'll try to utilize his quickness on cuts to the basket."

Praise between Adams and Olson is a two-way street, as Adams credits Olson as the reason he has matured over his career at Arizona.

"(Olson) made me into a man. He teaches you basketball, but he also kind of molds you into a man," Adams said. "He helped me a lot just with on- and off-the-court stuff."

Adams, however, isn't as quick to focus on himself this season. He has one superseding goal that, if fulfilled, would be like sweet music to the ears of Wildcat faithful:

"To try and lead this team to a national title," he said.

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