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Interview with former Runnin' Rebels Star - Jovan 'Wink' Adams


On August 4, 2011 I sat down with Jovan ‘Wink' Adams and spoke about everything, from coming to UNLV, playing at UNLV, and playing in the pros. Some of the subjects we talked about were his recruitment, the coaching change, memorable games / players, new players on the roster and in the future, playing overseas,  and what's next for Wink.

RR: So I'm sitting here with Wink Adams. As I recall you came to UNLV from Houston, TX?

WA: Yes sir, close to Pearland Texas, suburb near Houston.

RR: And you went to private high school?

WA: I actually went to two high schools. My first year I played, made the team, but coach didn't play me, I wasn't getting minutes. So I ended up quitting basketball my freshman year and ended up joining the band, I was in the band for a year.

RR: Really, what instrument did you play?

WA: I played the Tuba, it's kind of my hidden talent (laughs).

RR: In more of a orchestra setting or something else?

WA: Marching band, also jazz band. I love it, man its kind of my hidden talent. Not many people know about it. I love it. So I did that my freshman year, then I transferred to another school and played basketball two years there. Then I went to a prep school that a lot of guys I knew went to, they said there would be a lot of exposure. It was kind of the best thing for me, when I was playing at the 4 year high school I was only getting interest from a lot of junior colleges. I actually committed to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, they were my first letter. My coach told me to go to prep school and I would get some better colleges offering. First I didn't want to do it, then I just went for it and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. My name just skyrocketed after ABC camp in New Jersey, with a whole lot of colleges seeing me. They got to see me play the point and I got to be the #2 ranked point guard in the country.

RR: Your height is 6'0", when did you peak out in height in high school?

WA: It was late, like my sophomore or junior year. In 8th grade I was 5'7" or 5'8". I just stayed that height until my junior year. I grew a little then. I wore the shoes with the big soles on them to be a little taller. When I got to 6'0" I knew I wouldn't go anymore, but I've always been a wide-shouldered big guy. Football was my first thing, and basketball kind of came along. I picked that up for my mother, and its something I stuck with.

RR: So if you weren't playing point guard, what would you play?

WA: Two guard (shooting guard) was my main position otherwise. A lot of colleges wanted to put me at two. I played a lot of two guard at UNLV.

RR: You were ranked the #2 point guard, #19th overall regardless of position, coming out of prep school, and you were Coach Kruger's first and probably best recruit...

WA: Yeah, it's kind of funny how that worked out. When you're ranked that high on, those guys always want you to go to the top-five schools. The top five was UCONN, Florida, Alabama State, Okalahoma, and Arkansas.

RR: A lot of those, with the exception of UCONN were in the south, and you'd be familiar with them being from Houston?

WA: Right, growing up you would see them on TV all the time, big time schools. But for some reason, since I was a kid I always wanted to come to UNLV. My first hat, my first jacket was all UNLV, back when Larry Johnson was playing. He actually came to big-time tournament, and I asked my coach about UNLV, and it just so happened he knew Coach Lew Hill. I remember they watched me play in an AAU game, and that whole game I zoned out and had 36-38 points. When I went home I got my first letter from UNLV, and I told my mother - I know exactly where I want to go. UNLV jumped right to the top of my list, everyone was shocked.

RR: So did you have to decommit from Cal Poly?

WA: Yeah, I actually decommitted when I made the decision to go to prep school. UNLV wasn't recruiting me at first, until I asked about them. It worked out for the best.

RR: So the relationship of your AAU coach with Lew Hill was good, but you'd have to answer ultimately to Lon Kruger, the head coach - how did that relationship get started?

WA: When I spoke with Coach Kruger, he just kept it honest with me. He expected me to perform, to be a scorer, do what I'm doing. I liked what he had going on, a new coach, new coaching staff, rebuilding the program - I just wanted to be a part of that. When he offered the scholarship, I jumped right on it.

RR: Freshman year at UNLV, you actually played significant minutes at UNLV, how was that?

WA: I started at point guard, and I was nervous. I was so nervous, my first shot was a three pointer off the backboard. I had like 8 points and 6 turnovers. Coach told me you got to slow down, let the game come to me. You just have to get into your comfort zone. After awhile he saw me scoring a lot, he pulled me to the side and said, you are a scoring point guard, so we'll start you at the two. Playing the two was real comfortable for me, and once he did that I had no problems.

RR: You got to post-season play (NCAA or NIT) three out of the four years you were at UNLV, would you consider the most significant would be the sweet sixteen season?

WA: Right, that was my sophomore year (2006-07).

RR: Even though you guys got to the NIT the last one, you play a real tough team in Kentucky - at Kentucky.

WA: Boy, you know, we were excited to play those guys. Throughout the season you see teams on TV but you never know who you're going to play tournament time. Kentucky, the way they play, it was a hostile tournament environment - and that's exactly what it was. Everything they got going on, big time program...

RR: They never-not make the tournament.

WA: Never not make the tournament, it was exciting playing them, playing against a top program, it was big.

RR: Because you guys had so much success most of the time, what do you think, looking back now, made things click? How were you guys able to be so successful so consistently?

WA: You know, we had one of  the smallest teams. Joe Darger played 5 some of the time, and he was only 6'7". My whole time at UNLV we stretched defense, just guarding guys, using advantages, getting out, running - just being bulldogs out there. That's how we practiced, that's how we played. I think our defense was the big time thing. When we're in the gym and preseason doing a lot of conditioning and running. Every team we played saw our size, and it was our defense that did it.

RR: Among the coaching staff, was it all Coach Kruger, or who architected the defense?

WA: I think all of  them did, every coach had something. Coach Kruger was the operational guy, he knew defense, he knew the game - he said something you'd listen. Hensen was more on shooting, he's one of the best shooters I've ever seen, he can really shoot the ball. He'd take us through drills during practice, constantly shoot. Coach Hill, was coaching our big men, teaching them down low moves, everything. Coach Grensing, he's the yeller. No matter what, you'd hear him yelling something on the sidelines. Jason Kabo - strength and conditioning, he does a great job, he's one of the best in the country. He's behind the scenes but he makes it all happen. He breaks everyone's workout down individually, nobody does the same workout. He breaks it down for your body, one by one. That's why everyone was so successful during those years, I give a lot to Jason Kabo.

RR: Do you still consult with Coach Kabo?

WA: Oh yeah, even though I'm not there anymore. He still helps me out to create a program. He just wants to help people out, and he does a great job.

RR: As far as your time at UNLV besides the tournament runs, do you have any games that are particularly memorable to you. Do you relive them, not because you made a mistake, but the good times?

WA: I think, off the top of my head, the TCU game my junior year. Those guys shot 17-19 during the MWC tournament in the first round. Those guys shot the lights out, and it came down to the wire. I think with about 5 seconds left I got the ball and got an and-1, and it was crazy. That game, I still watch it and it gives me goose bumps, I watch it all the time. To see a team shoot that well, 17 for 19 is amazing. I still don't know how we won that game.

RR: That's nearly 90%.

WA: Yeah, they shot the ball ridiculous; I still don't know how we won that game to this day. Biggest game I ever played in.

RR: Is there any matchup with other players you encountered during your collegiate career - that was the best matchup you ever had. I'm not taking about people you dominated, but they pushed you to be better. Like, for example, Tre'von had Jimmer.

WA: I think I had a couple. My freshman year, I think Brandon Heath (SDSU) was one of the best scorers ever in the Mountain West. Playing against him, you learn a lot. When you play against be best, you learn more. Brandon Ewing (Wyoming) was another. J.R. Giddens (New Mexico), there was a lot of guys who played in the conference who were tough matchups and pushed me, it was a battle day in and day out to play against those guys. If I could do it all over again, I'd do it.

RR: Is there anybody looking back, knowing what you know now, you could have bested them? They may have had your number back then but now you feel you could take him?

WA: Back then, Jimmer. When we played against him he was young, you could tell he was going to be good, but not player of the year good. When we played him, he'd score 15-16 points. I think if we played him the way he played this year, who knows.

RR: You had to deal with Lee Cummard, Jonathan Tavernari.

WA: Trent Plaisted too, they had a tough team. We couldn't beat them at home.

RR: When the team traveled out for tournaments, there was a lot of hoopla, like a bowl game. Is there anything memorable and special you remember about those tournaments?

WA: I think, the most exciting part was seeing where you're going to play, selection Sunday, seeing where and who you're going to play. That's the best thing. When you actually get there, its an incredible vibe. You have fans from everywhere, different teams, cameras, playing on a neutral court, the whole tournament itself is an exciting time to play.

RR: What about the seeding, UNLV normally has been placed in 8/9 seeds, does that kind of stuff fade to the back because theoretically, any team 1-64 theoretically has a shot to win the whole thing?

WA: I think my junior year we were in that range, junior year, 8-9 seed. Sophomore were 29 and 6, and we got a 8 seed. We thought we were going to get a four seed because we were one of the best teams in the country. When we got the eight seed, a lot of people were disappointed thinking we would be seeded better. When we played Georgia Tech and Wisconsin, both good teams, Wisconsin was a 2 seed, we just made the most of it. At the beginning of the year Coach Kruger said, we could be one of the last sixteen teams playing - and we actually did it. I tell people, if he had said "we could be one of the last eight" we could have made it to the elite eight (laughs).

RR: Even though you're from Houston, have you made Las Vegas your home? Even though you're playing international basketball.

WA: I live here now, my wife, she's actually from here. We just bought a house in Centennial. I love being here, being a part of the program, going to the alumni meetings. This is definitely my home.

RR: After UNLV you went to Turkey. What was the name of your pro-club?

WA: Olek Unow, it was 2 hours away from Istanbul.

RR: How did you feel about the experience?

WA: I was excited to go, my first time playing overseas. If it had been Africa, I'd been excited to go. When I got there, it was a culture change. Women were covered up, you would walk through the streets and soldiers were out with big guns. At one point I was kind of nervous not knowing what would happen. It was a good experience. It's a Muslim country so five times a day they have the bullhorns throughout the whole city, the call to prayer. Its so loud, me and one of my teammates who was there in his first year as well, it came on and (laughs) we were nervous, didn't know what was happening, we were scared out of our head. Coach told us what was happening, we got used to it, it was a good experience.

RR: Before playing overseas, you played summer league?

WA: Yes, it was the New York Knicks, at the Las Vegas summer league.

RR: How does it work, when you aren't drafted but you get onto a summer league team?

WA: The team can just pick you up. My agent called me and told me the Knicks want to pick you up for the summer league, and I signed a contract for summer league. When I got that news, it was great news. When I first came to UNLV for summer league, it was great - fans were built in.

RR: After the summer league, did you have the option to go to the NBA D-League as opposed to going to Turkey?

WA: Yeah, I did, but the money was a big issue.

RR: Doesn't the NBADL pay like $50k a year?

WA: No, in the 6 months I played in it, it paid only like $13k. The players I know who have played in it are like, man, I'm not doing that again. If you're going to settle for D-league you might as well work a 9-5, make more money doing that.

RR: After Turkey, you did played D-League ball with Tulsa?

WA: Right, I finished the season with them, we played in the championship but lost to Rio Grande.

RR: And then the Sioux Falls Skyforce?

WA: I also played in Belgium. While I was there I got drafted by the D-league. I wanted to come back and play basketball in America so badly that I left Belgium and played for the Skyforce in South Dakota.

RR: Besides the pay issue with the D-league, what was your overall impression? Level of competition, focus on getting you ready for the NBA?

WA: I think some teams are actually owned by NBA teams, so Tulsa was owned by Okalahoma City, and a lot of things they do are different from other D-League teams. A lot of guys from OKC who get drafted but are not playing, they got sent to play with us, which is always a good thing.

RR: Did you find the competition was better in Turkey or Belgium vs. the D-League?

WA: No, I thought the D-league had better competition. You had ex-pros, people who have played in the NBA, former big-time players from college.

RR: Did your European teams ever get a chance at the Eurobasket championship over there?

WA: No, the two teams I played for were always in the middle of the pack. I haven't had the chance to play for a title team yet, but hopefully in the future.

RR: Is the pay respectable over there?

WA: Yes, and they pay you cash.

RR: Something I've read, and I don't know if its merely isolated to the Greek teams, but given the global economic situation, I hear that on some European teams players don't sometime get paid, checks don't cash?

WA: Oh yeah, a lot of teams in Greece. They offer you a lot of money but can't pay it. I had a friend. AJ Abrams who played for Texas, he played in Greece for 6 months and only received one check. He said he had to leave, man they were giving him $200 here and there, enough to eat. He said he couldn't do it. When I was in Turkey, the team that Deron Williams is going to, people who I know on that team, they were always late on payment too. That's why I was surprise he signed with them, and that there was talk of Kobe going there too.

RR: Because of the NBA lockout, do you expect a lot of NBA players coming over and playing with you or on opposing teams?

WA: Yeah, a lot of the teams I knew and played against have players now. Sasha Vujacic is recently signed on. A lot of have NBA or ex-NBA guys. I know I'll play against at least a couple guys.

RR: I think I read in the RJ article that you've given up hope on the NBA dream?

WA: Yeah, well I mean, if it happens, it happens. You get older, and every year only 15-30 spots open in the NBA and there's 2000-3000 players trying to get them. The odds are against you at all times. When you have the opportunity you have to take advantage of it. If it happens, it happens. Right now my whole thing is to try and make the money before my career is over.

RR: Is there any countries that you wouldn't play for? A lot of people now are playing in China, maybe Kobe too?

WA: I would love to go to China, it has the best market overseas. They have the most money and they can afford to pay players what they're worth, and you know its going to pay on time. China, aside from the NBA, have some of the better known leagues. A lot of NBA players, even when there wasn't a lockout, they left the NBA to go to China and make the same type of money. China is a great place. Definitely open to it.

RR: How do you get hooked up with the international teams?

WA: Usually how it works it you have an agent in America, and his company has a company they work with in Europe, and they have their own agents. So really you have a agent in America, and one in Europe. The European agent is marketing you, and when he find a team that wants you, he talks to the American agent, who talks to me.

RR: Do they have a highlight tape of you that they send?

WA: Yeah, they have some film. I think every agent has his main business somewhere. One agent may have contacts more in Germany, someone might have connections somewhere else like Italy, Turkey, but not in Germany - so that how it is. Agents are a lot about who you know.

RR: You're done with the D-league right, not going back?

WA: Never.

RR: From the teams you've played on at UNLV, you still keep up with your former teammates?

WA: Oh yeah I still work out with Marcus Lawrence, Scott Hoffman, Curtis Terry, a lot of the guys. I think we kind of drawn to each other, we've been through it all, the good times and the bad. We all kind of look out for each other.

RR: I've read some about your interest in coaching, and you were close to coaching at Centennial high school.

WA: Yes, they actually hired me. I was out there in the summer time doing some work. I felt like putting the ball down for a little while and trying coaching. When you've been playing for so long, its kind of hard to decide to just stop playing. I've stayed in shape, and my agent has come to me once in a while and asked if I wanted to keep playing, and I was open to it. When the time came, I just decided I couldn't put the ball down yet.

RR: Speaking of keeping in shape, you've already played one pickup game this morning at Dula Recreation center, and you have a few more?

WA: I'll play another at 2pm at UNLV open gym, and then another at 5:45 at Valley High school.  That's a normal day for me. That's how I keep in game shape. I come over here in the morning and play. Me and a friend we'll go to UNLV and put up about 500 shots, and do some running on the track. Got to get a workout, eat, breath, and sleep basketball. I get to the gym by 9am, run on the treadmill, play with those guys, do it all day.

RR: Ever play over at Impact basketball academy?

WA: I have before, when I first came out before I went to Turkey. It's a good program, they do a lot of things over there and have a lot of great players come over. Nationwide, a lot of guys flock to it and love to workout over there, so it's a good thing.

RR: Obviously, you're who career was under Coach Kruger, what did you think about his leaving?

WA: I didn't think he was going to leave, but once again - money issue. I think his deal, who could turn it down, it's a no-brainer. I think Coach Rice came for the love of the program. I don't think he's getting as much as Coach Kruger was, he played for the Rebels. Once you play for the school, you feel like you're a part of the program so I feel that Coach Rice coming is good for the program. He is the first coach who has played here who actually coached here. They've brought back Stacey Augmon and brought in Justin Hutson and Heath Schroyer, it's a great program and things are going well. Coach Kruger did a good job, and Coach Rice is going to build on top of that.

RR: You've played pickup games at UNLV, and you've played with a lot of the current players, since a lot of people haven't seen the new guys play - what do you think of Mike Moser?

WA: Oh man, Mike is going to be really good. I think he's a great outside player like a Matt Shaw. He's a big man who can step out, and its hard to defend him. He can put it on the floor, shoot it, rebound. He's long and athletic. He's going to be a big key to the program this year. All the guys, everyone is working hard. Anthony Marshall, he's playing through the roof right now. He's getting bigger, stronger, shooting the ball well. Chace, all of those guys are working hard this summer so I can see them having a good season.

RR: Have you played much with Reggie Smith?

WA: Yeah, Reggie's one of the most athletic 5'10" guards I've ever seen. This guy can throw it down, he can jump, shoot it, put it on the floor. And he can defend which is very important. Reggie plays good defense and the knows the game. Its going to be a big-time backcourt with him.

RR: Do you think he can fill Bellfield or Marshall's shoes when he graduates?

WA: Yes, he's doing well. Reggie brings a piece they need, a guard that can defend, play the passing lanes, defend around the rim - so that'll be big.

RR: You've built a relationship with recent signee Dantley Walker?

WA: Yeah.

RR: I've spoke with Greg Walker, Dantley's father, and they spoke about the great influence you had on Dantley. How did that relationship start?

WA: A friend of their family, works at the bank with my mother-in-law. She invited us to a game, said I want you to come see. I came to the game and the whole team ran to me and asked for autographs. I was like, these are pretty cool people. I watched him play, and I was like - UNLV needs him. He can see the floor, and shoot it. He's like Jimmer, but not as big. He can handle the ball, shoot it, he's crafty with the ball - everything Jimmer does, he does. When he decided that he wanted to go to UNLV, said that I and Kevin Kruger were his favorite Rebels. From that day, we've just had a great relationship, text him all the time. This past 4th of July I played in a 3 on 3 tournament with him, and we won it. He's become like a little brother to me, always texting and calling. I love the kid, he's going to be a big part of UNLV in 2 years, and I'll definitely come watch him play.

RR: I ask players what kind of shoes they play in - what do you prefer?

WA: I think, as far as just waking around in, love the Nike Air Force One shoes. To play in, I love Nikes, Adidas, no preference. Just depends on how the shoe is made. I don't like light shoes, I'm a heavy set guy so I like the heavy shoes. The pro model Adidas. I've played in Jordans, I've played in all Nikes.

RR: That's partially determined by the team?

WA: In college, UNLV was a Nike team, so it was Nike shoes and I kind of got used to it. Back in AAU ball it was Adidas. When I used to the Nikes, I loved them.

RR: How far do you think the Rebels can go in the foreseeable future?

WA: I think in the next two or three years, definitely see at least the second round, sweet sixteen. They're getting some guys in there that are great, and the Coaches they have can recruit the pieces they need. Once they put it all together, they will be an up and down team. I think they'll go pretty far in the tournament once it's put together and on the same page. Defense, practice, and work hard builds a good team.

RR: What's next for you now?

WA: I'm leaving this Saturday to go play basketball in Switzerland. As soon as I get there, there will be a training camp, and then the first game will be on the 15th. That's why I'm working out so much, getting ready for it. Switzerland should be good, a bit more Americanized than say, Turkey or some other places. It'll be fun.

RR: Well everyone wishes you much success.

WA: Thanks.