LONG BEACH -- This was a different Andre Adams.
Even though they'd seen him play numerous times previously, college coaches were observed riffling through the pages of the massive roster packet in order to identify the active big man they were enjoyably watching.
This Adams has a beard and a new disposition. It's hard to fault coaches for the mistake. He wasn't the same player they'd come to know.
With every floor burn, every loud utterance, every aggressive possession, Adams changed a long-held perception over a three game span in a Long Beach, Calif., high school gym last week. In a sense, he'd been reborn.
It took a birth to make it happen. When Adam's sister had a baby in November, something changed. He developed a sense of purpose that had been absent.
"Her baby's daddy isn't in the picture," Adams said. "It was a big moment for me. I had to do more. I realized I do have to grow up and have to change and it started with basketball and from there everything has been falling along. My coaches have really been working with me and stayed in my corner. I still have a long way to go, but I can see the progress and that's what I'm focused on."
Once painfully shy and introverted, Adams' voice echoed across the court when teammates' shot selection started to slip, allowing an opponent back in game. It's a role that hasn't come easily or naturally, but it's coming along all the same, finally.
Fortunately for Adams, there's more time. He's reclassified to 2015 and will attend IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., this year, after academic struggles at Avondale (Ariz.) Westview High School and a lackadaisical approach to the game hurt his stock.
Once a Rivals100 national recruit, the 6-foot-9 Adams faded in the last year to somewhat of an afterthought on the college circuit despite being a big and mobile player with skill upside. As AAU teammate Michael Humphrey's star soared, Adams took a backseat. A slow realization took hold. In order to accomplish his goals he needs to have a different approach.
"I just started to prepare for the games differently," Adams said. "Going through stretches more, getting a different mindset in warm ups, not worrying about people around me, just worrying about my teammates and getting ready to play so we're all in the best position to win. It's a mindset more than anything."
AAU coaches and teammates have stayed solidly in Adams' corner through the challenges, a reality he credits with helping him turn the corner toward a more promising avenue.
"They've been really positive and great, my teammates too," Adams said. "That's really helped me out because I wasn't always in the best place with how things were going.
"In high school I didn't want to talk to anyone and just wanted [college coaches] to talk to my mom because I didn't do as well as I should have in school. I just wanted to get my head right and turn everything around. My mom does stay in touch with a lot of coaches and talk with them daily and some time I'll get to talking with them again."
Adams is doing better in school and said he should have no trouble qualifying for initial eligibility in college if he's able to get his college entrance test score higher. Having a year to prepare on and off the court at one of the nation's premier prep schools gives him a lot of confidence he'll continue to progress now that he's found the right approach.
"I know IMG is a good school and they are going to develop me more, both as an outside player and an inside player," Adams said. "I just know I'm going to go out there and they are going to push me to do things I've never done. I'm going there to work hard. I'm not going there to be the No. 1 guy, just learn new stuff and do my schooling and everything. I'm excited about it."
Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon State and others had once extended scholarship offers to Adams, who finished No. 130 in the final 2014 class rankings after being as high as No. 54 in the spring of 2013. It wouldn't be at all a surprise to see those or other schools again ramp up their interest level as a result of his recent play and reclassification, and this time, Adams said he's ready for it.
"When I first went through it, it was overwhelming," he said. "But now that I've been through the process and understand it better it's not something I'm scared of. It's something I look forward to. Communicating with coaches about schooling and stuff is a good thing. It's a great experience and opportunity. I used to be overwhelmed and have my mom deal with a lot of that stuff but I think I have a better grasp on it, what I need to do and say, so it's a lot better now.
"I know that it's just going to take time but if I have the right focus, with that time I can only get better and have the type of success that I'm really trying to have."