It drew the ire of St. Bonaventure basketball fans from near and far.
On July 9, during a Summer League game in Las Vegas, Jaylen Adams garnered praise from NBA legend and 2018-19 teammate Vince Carter.
“Love Jaylen,” said Carter in a guest spot during a Hawks-Pacers television broadcast. “We played on the second unit together. It was great to see him get the opportunity to stick on the roster and finish out the year. It was to the point where he was too unselfish, trying to be a facilitator. He has the ability to shoot the ball.”
On July 11, he was spotlighted in a Hawks tweet that read, “Jaylen Adams doin’ Jaylen Adams things” and was accompanied by a video snippet of the former Bona star knocking down a 3-pointer against the Wizards.
And on July 13, he was cut.
It was a surprising move to most anyone who has followed Adams’ professional career from afar.
He’d played well enough to earn a permanent place on Atlanta’s roster by the end of last season. He was one of the featured players on the Hawks’ summer roster. He was well-regarded by teammates.
The organization seemed high on him.
But it also underscored the (unsurprising) cut-throat nature associated with professional sports and the “what have you done for me lately” posture that remains firmly in place at that level.
Adams averaged seven points and shot just 25 percent from the field in four Summer League games. At the same time, Atlanta had a decision to make: retain the Baltimore native as the backup point guard for 2019-20 and pay him a salary of $1.4 million or waive a struggling player by July 19, when that money would have been guaranteed, and incur a cap hit of only $100,000.
Just like that, Adams’ NBA future was back in flux.
Bona fans, naturally, were vexed by the announcement, leading many to flood the Hawks’ social media accounts with their disapproval. To them, this was the same unjust treatment given to another former Bonnie-turned-NBA-player, Andrew Nicholson: Adams, in their minds, hadn’t gotten enough of a chance to succeed before being let go.
Despite his current circumstances, however, the 2018 Atlantic 10 Co-Player of the Year and three-time First Team All-Conference selection should be fine.
Yes, Adams can be streaky at times; he had a particularly rough stretch from behind the arc during his junior year with the Bonnies. Overall, though, he seems too good a shooter, too savvy a point guard, too intelligent a player not to be given another look, especially by a PG-needy franchise.
And remember: The 6-foot-2 guard has been proving people wrong for years, from his days as an undersized, under-recruited prospect out of Mount St. Joseph, to going undrafted in June of 2018, to essentially forcing his way into a standard deal with Atlanta with his stellar play in the G-League.
And if it doesn’t work out for Adams in the NBA, greener pastures could likely be found overseas. Just ask Nicholson, now 29, who averaged 27 points and nine rebounds in a standout winter in China while making close to $1 million along the way.
No matter what the future holds for the latest in a long line of Bona greats or for the likes of Youssou Ndoye, who appeared in two Summer League games with the Mavericks, and Matt Mobley, who averaged 17 points in Belgium last season and parlayed that into a recent deal with a top-level French club, one thing is becoming truer by the year:
Bona, in addition to the on-court success it’s had in recent years, has become a breeding ground for pros.
In 12 years under coach Mark Schmidt, 23 players have signed professional contracts, including the two NBA guys, a number that would have been unimaginable in even the Bona community in the mid-2000s. That’s to say nothing of former Schmidt guys such as Chris Matthews, now an NBA shooting coach, or Tyler Relph, one of the more sought-after skill coaches in the country.
The latest to make that leap was LaDarien Griffin.
The 6-foot-7 forward, who helped the Bonnies to the 2018 NCAA Tournament and left his mark as one of the best dunkers in program history, recently announced his intention to play in Sweden with the Norrköping Dolphins. Norrköping is a member of the Basketligan, the most prestigious league in the country.
In signing his first professional contract, Griffin, who averaged 11 points and six rebounds as a senior last winter, echoed a sentiment he’d made commonplace in his four years with the Bonnies.
“Winning is the most important thing to me,” he said in a release. “I want to help the team to be as successful as it can be.”
And it sounds like he’ll get the chance.
Norrköping coach Mikko Riipinen described Griffin as “an incredibly exciting player who has played at a high level of competition.” He added of the 2018 Atlantic 10 Co-Most Improved Player of the Year: “We want to offer him an environment with a mix of competition, responsibility and development.”
(J.P. Butler, Bradford Publishing Company group sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)