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Ako Adams: Forever an Owl

By Madison Buzzard     1/22/19 9:44pm

During his tenure with the Rice Owls men’s basketball team, junior guard Ako Adams has experienced immense turmoil.

Rewind to Adams’ recruitment to Rice in 2015: the Owls had finished back-to-back seasons with a 12-20 record under head coach Mike Rhoades, but with former Owls phenom scorer Marcus Evans showing promise as Conference USA’s freshman of the year, Adams selected Rice. As a 3-star recruit, Adams turned down scholarship offers from four other Division I schools to join Evans and Rhoades.

From Arlington, Virginia, Adams immediately garnered playing time for Rice as a sixth man off the bench, playing in every game during his freshman year. Quick, dynamic and known for his dreadlocks, Adams helped to galvanize a rejuvenation in Rice basketball. With Evans and three-point marksman Egor Koulechov, the Owls experienced an 11-win improvement after Adams joined Rice.

In March of 2017, during the offseason before Adams’ sophomore year, a decision stripped the wind from Rice’s sails: Rhoades resigned as the Owls head coach to join Virginia Commonwealth University. Evans followed Rhoades, which sparked a domino-effect that ravaged the Owls basketball program. A wave of transfers including Koulechov left Rice without four incumbent starters.

Despite the unrest which surrounded Adams, he stayed. Adams said he does not regret that decision.

“It’s been tough ever since the departure of Coach Rhoades and Marcus Evans and Egor,” Adams said. “When they left it took a lot out of this team. But we have been building with [current head] coach [Scott] Pera for awhile now.”

Pera, who replaced Rhoades, was previously an assistant coach for the Owls under Rhoades and held assistant positions with Arizona State University and the University of Pennsylvania; however, Rice was Pera’s first foray as a head coach. After Pera’s hiring, two more transfers ensued.

Troubled times followed the Owls. Rice’s record during Pera’s inaugural season as head coach was an abysmal 7-24. Only four of those wins came against C-USA opponents. Adams had been promoted to starting point guard, but he could have hardly been blamed if he’d considered transferring from Rice. Adams remained; according to him, Pera demonstrated a growth mindset from day one.

“Coach Pera has taught me to be a leader, on and off the court, to help others and the community and show my talents,” Adams said. “He has taken all the up and downs really well and he’s a great coach.”

On the court, Adams rededicated himself to the craft of passing, where he earned praise on scouting reports for his speedy fast breaks and all-court distribution as a recruit from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. After coughing up 82 turnovers last year, Adams said he never lost faith.

“I have always put a lot of work into improving my game as a passer, getting a lot of reps in the gym,” Adams said. “I just want to help my teammates out and I try to put them in the right places.”

Off the court, Adams took his sophomore year to reflect on his future career. As a sport management major with a leadership concentration, Adams said he has plenty to look forward to after his playing career concludes.

“Yeah, yeah, it would be really cool to get a job in marketing,” Adams said. “But the sport management major could take me anywhere.”

Adams remains the starting point guard for this year’s team. However, Pera has since built a team capable of replacing the depth and scoring lost during the transfer rush. So far, 10 players have played in a double-digit number of games this season. Rice currently sits at 7-12, already matching last year’s win total. 

Alongside freshman guard Chris Mullins and junior forward Robert Martin, Adams is one of three Owls who average at least 11 points scored per game. Adams boasts a 1.33 assist/turnover ratio, one of the highest among Rice players. He has also started 50 consecutive contests dating back to last season. In fact, Adams has never missed a game in his career.

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