Jaylen Adams swore that the hand surgery was routine, that no tracking hardware had been installed to help shots and passes reach their intended targets.
The St. Bonaventure guard’s success and current hot streak are the result of hard work, a year’s maturity and experience, and the motivation derived from a season cut short.
“There’s no radar in there,” Adams said with a chuckle.
Whatever the reasons, Adams and the Bonnies (9-3, 1-0 Atlantic 10) are off to their best start since 1999-2000, as they travel to George Mason (6-8, 0-1) for a conference game at 7 p.m. Wednesday on ASN.
St. Bonaventure has won six of seven, including its A-10 opener Saturday versus Davidson. Adams scored a career-high 30 points, making five 3-pointers and all 11 of his free throws, as the Bonnies rallied for a 97-85 victory.
The 6-2 sophomore from suburban Baltimore leads the Bonnies in scoring (17.5 ppg) and assists (5.1 apg) and is in the midst of a ridiculously efficient stretch. In his past five games, he’s shot 60.7% from the field (34-for-56) and 64.8% from 3-point range (24-for-37). He leads the A-10 in 3-point shooting (.471), is second in assists and fifth in free throw percentage (.870).
College basketball analytics guru Ken Pomeroy currently rates Adams 22nd in the nation in true shooting percentage, a measure that includes field goal and free throw shooting, and he is No. 108 in overall offensive rating.
“I feel like I’m shooting the ball pretty well,” Adams said. “I’m getting some good looks and I’m able to knock ‘em down, and I think we’re playing good team basketball right now. Everybody’s getting into the flow of things and we’re able to pick it up.”
Adams twice has hit his career high during the current stretch. He scored 28 in a win against Vermont, making seven 3-pointers. He also had a 12-assist, two-turnover game versus Niagara, in which he attempted just nine shots.
“Jay’s a very unselfish player, but he’s a smart player,” Bonnies’ coach Mark Schmidt said on the A-10’s weekly coaches’ teleconference. “He understands when he needs to score and when he needs to get other people involved, and I think that’s one of his strengths. He has a really good understanding and IQ for the game. He never really forces things.”
Adams worked his way into the starting lineup from day one and was one of the Atlantic 10’s top freshmen. But he broke the ring finger on his right hand, which required surgery, and missed the final nine games.
He called being unable to play and to help his team “extreme motivation” for this season. His summer workouts when he returned home to Maryland included a couple of weeks of two-a-day sessions with his cousin, Cincinnati guard Troy Caupain. The Bearcats’ 6-4, 205-pound junior is a year older, a couple of inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than Adams.
“He makes me tougher,” Adams said. “He pushes me in many ways. It’s good to get someone that size to defend you. It gives you a different look and it makes it easier when you’ve got smaller guards defending you.”
Adams is part of a three-guard lineup that includes senior running mate Marcus Posley (17.2 ppg). The Bonnies are smaller than last season and play a bit faster. The trio of Adams, Posley and senior forward Dion Wright (16.8 ppg) account for two-thirds of their 76.4 points per game.
“For us as a team, I know we’re a lot different, in terms of size and how we’re going to have to play,” Adams said. “It’s a lot more fast paced and I think that leads to a lot more plays from the guards, in general. … My role changed a little bit, being that we have another guard to play the (point), and it just moves everybody over, so my role’s a little bit different. I’m being asked to score the ball a little more, but to be a point guard in the same way.”
Adams said that the game feels the same during his current binge. He’s simply playing with confidence and has great trust in his teammates to make plays and to be where they’re supposed to, and in the coaches to put them in the proper positions.
For the coaches’ part, a player on a roll such as Adams makes their lives easier, as well.
“He scored 30 points against Davidson, but he didn’t take any bad shots,” Schmidt said. “He created shots for other people. He’s just a smart player. I’m lucky to have him, as a coach. He understands what we’re looking for. He knows situations, and … with another year’s experience he’s that much better with that. He understands what we need, and for the most part he’s making the right play.”
Dave Fairbank is a freelance writer based in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Follow him on Twitter @FairbankOBX.