Danielle Adams Coming Back Strong
The rookie All-Star is using her time away from the court to become a force.
by Stephen Litel / @stephenlitel
After winning a national championship with Texas A&M and earning the Most Outstanding Player award of the Final Four last year, Danielle Adams still wasn’t sure if she belonged in the WNBA. Drafted in the second round—20th overall—Adams quickly adjusted and had those early moments letting her know that she does, in fact, belong.
“Yeah, I did have those moments,” said Adams. “I’d say the first couple of days I really didn’t know, but after I just kept working harder and harder, I found out that I can play in the WNBA. I made the team and I was pretty excited about that. I told Coach Hughes I was going to play my hardest each and every game. I was going to give this organization something that they’ve never had in a post player that can shoot it from outside and go inside.”
Her coach, Dan Hughes, seemed to know before Adams did that she belonged. Hughes has very particular attributes he looks for in his players and Adams possessed all of them, whether she was aware of it or not.
“Her college coach told me that ‘She knows our plays better than I know them,’” said Hughes. “I remember those exact words coming to me when I talked to Gary (Blair) one time about Danielle. What was really interesting to me was to watch her practice because in practice you could see that not only knew what she was doing, she knew what the other four players were doing.”
After her early season success, Adams was named to the All-Star team as a rookie, which should be the final indication that not only does she belong, she belongs with the best of the best. However, no amount of research could have prepared Coach Hughes for the all-around game Adams possesses, even greater than he was aware of when drafting her.
“What I wasn’t ready for was that the skill level was that high,” said Hughes. “Her skill level is high in other ways too. She can create little space on her interior and do things. She has really good passing ability. Early in the season, I needed somebody to take the ball out of bounds in a key situation and make a couple reads. I put her there because I kind of had a feeling that she might exhibit that, so she showed me that.”
San Antonio is having a fine season and one of the biggest reasons is Danielle Adams. Her transition to the WNBA more smoothly then she imagined it would and she is proud of that accomplishment.
“I was working hard,” said Adams. “I worked hard each and every day and it paid off. I wanted it to pay off each game and each game I went out and played my hardest. I didn’t know at first how I was going to react to the WNBA, but I found out I reacted well and just kept working hard. Each game shows it.”
While Adams considers her smooth adjustment to be a product of hard work—and, of course, it is—Hughes also believes that another aspect was her brain. She thinks through the game much more than many young players, allowing her to make up for any disadvantage in pure athletic ability, as some believe.
“I think she’s really mature in her look at half-court basketball, both offensively and defensively,” said Hughes. “I mean, she has some wonderful instincts and she’s very skilled. People recognized she has a three-point shot, but she’s skilled around the basket and she’s skilled in her passing. It was those two things that were most apparent to me as to why the transition went well.”
Fortune for Adams was the fact she was drafted to a team that plays the game of basketball the way she likes to play. That allowed her to have a comfort level right off the bat, even when riddled with some of the early questions of whether she belonged on this stage.
“I mean, the way we play is the way I like to play with pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops,” said Adams. “I love to do it all and coach loves that I can do those types of things. I’m a versatile post player and I’m able to create mismatches with other post players on other teams.”
“We’re built to share the ball,” adds Hughes. “We’re a pretty high assist-to-goal type team and I think that what she became—and like a lot of want—is that perimeter player that can stretch the defense. She also has the ability to facilitate interior scoring and ball movement. She kind of gets it very quickly. You could even draw things up and some rookies have a hard time picturing it, but she was right with me really quick.”
Currently sitting out due to a foot injury, Adams is utilizing her thoughtful approach to the game to improve even when unable to play. As she rehabs her injury, Adams remains vigilant in her preparation for competition, seeing some of the few things she may have missed when on the court to start the season.
“Spots on the floor that are open that I never knew were open, how the defense is playing and how I can react to it when I come back,” said Adams. “Just the little things and learning how to bring that back to the team and play even harder. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Utilizing her time on the sidelines well, Adams has also come to appreciate the veterans on the team even more. They helped make her feel welcome right away, adding Adams to their already-dangerous mix, which allowed helped her find her comfort level and ability to perform at the high level she has throughout her rookie season.
“Those vets are amazing,” said Adams. “Becky (Hammon), Sophia (Young), Ruth (Riley), Jia (Perkins) and all those vets help us out and they’re all playing good. I just play off of them. Coming off the bench is the best thing that ever happened and I love the role of coming off the bench and just showing what I’ve got. Teams are expecting it now, so I just have to find different strategies to bring my game more and play better. To have them behind me and letting me know this-and-that, what I’m doing wrong and what I can do better at, it’s amazing to have vets like that.”
With San Antonio more than likely hanging onto a postseason berth, Adams is doing all she can to get back onto the court as quickly as possible. The team has a record of 3-6 since her injury and they need Adams back as soon as possible to regain their grove before postseason play.
“Working out in the morning, rest, working out in the evening,” said Adams. “That’s a typical day for me, but I’m just supporting these girls and seeing things I didn’t see when I was out on the floor. I’m just being on the bench and being an asset to the team on the bench instead of on the floor.”
Adams rehab is going well and she is confident she will be back soon, utilizing the areas of the game she has focused on during her time away from the court.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Adams. “The foot is getting better rehabbing and I’m just keeping my conditioning strong. It’s going great so far. All is well with my foot, it’s getting better and I’m just hoping to get back real soon.”
Nineteen players were selected before Adams in the 2011 WNBA Draft, yet it is impossible to argue that she is one of the best rookies in the league. After making the All-Star team, she is also one of the best players period. If she’s even smarter than before by learning new ways to be effective for San Antonio that should be a scary thought for opponents.