Jordan Adams entered his freshman season as the least-heralded member of UCLA’s No. 2 recruiting class. He quickly turned into one of the Bruins’ most effective scorers, averaging 15.3 points per game (fifth in the Pac-12) until he broke his foot in the conference tournament semifinals.
Expected to now be the team’s primary option, he’ll return to the court sometime in August. He talked this week about his rehab, his impressions of the new coaching staff, and some reflections on last season.
Q: Where are you in your rehab?
I’m close to getting back on the court. I’ve talked to the trainers and the doctors; they said early August, middle of August. … Easing back into it. They’ll let me decide when I want to officially come back. It’ll be my decision at the end, but I’m still not cleared until August.
Q: How does your feet feel, even just walking around every day?
It feels great. I think I’m 100 percent, but the doctors, they know more. I still can shoot. I can do everything in basketball except jump and run up and down (the court). … I still do ballhandling drills, shooting drills. We have a shooting machine that tells you how much you make and how much you miss and gets rebounds for you so you don’t have to chase around. I still stay on top of my game even though I’m not 100 percent out there yet.
Q: Looking back, what were you most pleased with last season and what did you most want to improve?
I was pleased with my confidence and the way I fit in the college circuit coming from high school. I was pleased with how I adjusted and didn’t have too many setbacks. I did have a shooting slump, so I want to make sure I want to work on that and be in the best shape I can be in. I want to be able to play a whole game without even being close to being tired. I’m just going to push myself to get in that kind of shape.
Q: Is there something you can better attribute the slump to now?
I think it was just focus. I wasn’t focused on most of those shots. I was falling out of them or not doing my proper technique. Watching tape, a lot of times, I can tell when I miss a shot. From however I shot the ball, I can tell if it’s going in or not. …
Teams started to play me different. My gap for shooting was closed. They closed out faster. I rushed some of my shots because I knew they were closing out faster. I didn’t have that many open shots like I did early in the season. That kind of played a mind trick on me, me rushing my shots. Looking on tape, I can see I have to calm down and take my time.
Q: What do you specifically want to work on to better deal with defenses?
Moving off the ball. Your defender doesn’t want to chase you the whole game, so that will help take away some of the defensive tendencies to try and stop me and our team.
Q: How much have you been able to do with new strength coach Wes Long?
Even when I had my broken foot, I was still able to go down and train with Wes — when I was on my scooter. Wes is phenomenal. Me, Tony, Kyle, the Wear twins, we’re in the best shape of our lives physically. He’s really helping us. Pretty much all of them. I can put pressure on it, but they just don’t want me jumping. I can’t do most of the jumping workouts or the running, but all the core, everything else I do. …
I lost six pounds of fat and added five pounds of muscle. That’s pretty good for not being able to run. Earlier in the season, I was 220 (pounds). It kept alternating between 220, 225. Right now I’m at 226. I’m trying to get down to 215 before the season starts.
Q: What’s different about his workouts?
They’re just unbelievably hard. They’re constant motion. There’s no break between workouts. You go from this set, to this set, to this set, and then you start the next set. It’s constant heart rate and motion. A lot of core stability stuff. Everything starts with your core, so he’s real big on that. Trying to get us more flexible. More flexible out there on the court, more athletic. He’s helping us a lot. You can tell watching our players out there in pick-up, how much better everyone looks.
Q: What are the main differences you’ve noticed in Steve Alford and the new coaching staff?
They’re much more supportive. They have a closer bond to the players. They want what’s best for us all times, on the court, off the court. They’re always helping us. That’s a tremendous change for us.
Q: How does that compare to how Ben Howland worked?
Coach Howland, he cared, but he showed a more harder care. Something like a tough parent would do, be hard on you. Our coaches now, you can tell they care and they’re total players’ coaches. … It all depends on how your players are. I think with our group, some players need their love from the coaches. That keeps them motivated or going.
Q: How do you see your role on the team changing with Shabazz gone?
I know talking to Coach Alford, I’ll definitely be the primary scorer. On defense too, one of the primary defenders. Becoming a leader. I wasn’t the leader on the team last year. I kind of led by example. I wasn’t too vocal. That’ll be my biggest difference. I can, but I’d rather lead by example. Let somebody else do all the preparation talk.
Q: Are you excited to be the primary scorer?
It’s fine. Last year, I could score too with Shabazz on my team. I can score with other scorers or I can score by myself. I know the other team, when they scout, they’ll be in tune to that. I don’t wanna go into the games rushing, thinking I have to score all these points, just heave it up. I’ll go out there, see how they’re playing me and then make my moves off that.
Q: Has Kyle Anderson seem to have found his niche offensively?
Kyle looks really, really good scoring-wise. He’s shooting the ball a lot better, getting to the rim a lot quicker. He’s gotten a lot stronger working with Wes. He’s building it up, got his core strong. When he goes to the hole, everyone bounces off of him. Him and Tony. Tony lost like 20, 25 pounds. He’s looking quicker.
Q: Has Steve Alford discussed the playing style of the team yet?
He briefly talked about it, how he would let us go up and down. In a structured way though, not all chaos. In our workouts, we’re starting to space out. He’s telling us to space out. We might have some freedom. I’m not really sure, but we’ll see.
Q: What’s been your impression of the freshmen?
Zach (LaVine) and Bryce Alford are really good. I really like those two. Noah (Allen)’s coming along too. Wanaah was my roommate at Adidas Nations in the 15-and-under, so I know how he plays. He’s hurt right now (torn meniscus), but when he comes back (in four to six weeks), I know what he can bring to the table.
Q: What stands out to you about Zach and Bryce?
(Zach,) he’s crazy athletic. Probably (among the) top five players I’ve played with, that are that athletic. I didn’t think he was that athletic until he got here. He shoots the ball really well. He has a great feel for the game. It’s good to look forward to him. … It’s crazy. You’ve got to see him.
Bryce, he knows how to play the game because of his father. He has the passing instincts. In the workouts, you can see he’s really gearing his game to be like a one, because I think that’s where his dad wants him. He’ll mainly be at the one.
Q: I remember when I saw you after you broke your foot in the Pac-12 Tournament, you seemed the most collected out of anyone on the team. What was the process for you in getting over the emotional part of the injury so quickly?
I’ve always been a believer that everything happens for a reason. I wasn’t about to be sad about something that just happened. It was already over. I was looking forward to when I could rehab, come back and get my surgery so I could start my comeback. … I deal with adversity well, so that didn’t really bother me. I knew I would play again.
This is the longest (I’ve been out). At first, when I was on my scooter — I couldn’t walk — I took it as a break from basketball. I’ve been playing basketball nonstop since I was 13, every summer, every fall. Your body needs a break sometimes. I just took it as a big break. For those two months, and now this month, it’s been nothing but rehab and grinding.