OSHKOSH, Wis. — After scoring 17 points in the Wisconsin Herd’s loss to the Canton Charge on Jan. 9, former St. Bonaventure men’s basketball standout Jaylen Adams sat at his locker inside Menominee Nation Arena and reflected on what’s transpired since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in the spring of 2018.
There has been a lot.
Out of college, Adams just wanted a chance. He didn’t receive an invite to the NBA combine, and he went undrafted. But Adams found his way. After signing a two-way contract with the Atlanta Hawks’ G-League affiliate in Erie, Pennsylvania, Adams split much of the 2018-19 season between the NBA and the G League. In late February, however, Adams worked his way into the Hawks’ regular rotation and converted his two-way contract into a two-year standard NBA contract.
In Atlanta, Adams played in 34 games and started once. He finished with 108 points, 65 assists and made nearly 40 percent of his three-point attempts. Adams, who finished sixth all-time in scoring at St. Bonaventure, wasn’t putting up huge numbers. The Hawks decided to move on in July 2019. While Adams said the move didn’t surprise him, he felt as if he had earned more than just a quarter of a season in the NBA.
“Yeah, but no,” Adams said in regard to Atlanta’s decision to waive him. “You’ve got to perform. I thought that they were going to give me a little longer, but decisions are made and things happen. I used it as a learning experience and motivation to get better over the summer.”
And that’s exactly what Adams did. In his first full NBA offseason, Adams said he worked tirelessly in the gym. After getting a taste of NBA basketball, Adams said this past offseason was easier than the last. Everything slowed down for him.
“I knew what the games felt like,” Adams said. “So I focused on my middle game. Floaters, finishing around the rim and through contact and defending ball screens.”
And that led to his next opportunity
Thirty-seven days after being waived by Atlanta, the Milwaukee Bucks, fresh off of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, signed Adams to a contract. It was short-lived; Adams was waived by Milwaukee after the preseason and signed by its G-League affiliate, the Herd.
Through all the instability, Adams has found ways to make the most of his opportunities. He said staying level-headed and motivated to improve carry him on a daily basis.
“You’ve got to stay even keeled throughout the whole process,” Adams said. “Never too high, never too low. Just appreciate every day, attack every day and try to get better.”
Not only has Adams learned important lessons about life in the NBA, but he’s gotten to play with and against some of the league’s best players.
In Atlanta, Adams played with fellow rookie Trae Young, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. He also played with Vince Carter, a 20-year NBA veteran who is well on his way to the Hall of Fame after his career is over.
“Vince – he's a 20-year veteran,” Adams said. “I watched his approach and how he takes care of his body. Being a rookie with Trae, we kind of navigated the season with each other. I learned every day in practice and in games. I took important pieces from everyone’s lifestyle and game and added them into my own.”
While his time in Milwaukee lasted only a month, Adams played with 2019 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“Same thing with him – being around him every day, seeing how hard he works on a day-to-day basis,” Adams said. “Being around greatness makes you great.”
With a lot of basketball left in front of him, Adams still remains hopeful for another crack at the NBA. For now, though, Adams wants to keep his personal interests out of the way of the success of his current team, the Wisconsin Herd.
“I need to keep being a leader,” Adams said. “Keep being unselfish and keep winning games. This team has put itself in a really good spot. As the team stuff comes, individual accolades will come later. I am not worried about the individual stuff. It will come.”
Editor's note: This is Part 1 of Michael Hogan's article about his interview with Jaylen Adams. To read Part 2, click Jaylen Adams Reflects on His Time at St. Bonaventure: 'Bona’s Will Always be Home'
Sign Up for E-News to get top stories delivered daily to your inbox.