The upward evolution of Courtney Adams as a college basketball player went from a slow burn to an explosion in seemingly a matter of days.
Susquehanna University head coach Jim Reed said the former Hamilton West standout had been on a “a steady uphill trajectory all year,” in this, her junior season. On Jan. 28 in a close loss to Moravian, Adams came off the bench to collect 16 points and 10 rebounds.
She was inserted into the starting lineup four days later, and sparked a win over Juniata with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Thus started a tear the likes of which Adams had never experienced before. She had 29 and 4 against Goucher, 24-17 vs. Catholic, 21-14 vs. Drew and 18-10 vs. Scranton. The outburst raised Adams season average to 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds entering the River Hawks’ regular-season finale on Feb. 18.
“She is beginning to realize her full potential,” Reed said after the Scranton game. “In the last five games, she has been as good as any player in the Landmark Conference, which will set her up with the confidence to have a fantastic senior year next year.”
The obvious question, of course, is what the heck happened?
“I’m not really sure,” Adams said with a laugh. “I kind of broke into the starting lineup because of other people’s injuries. I like starting and getting into the rhythm I guess, and I’ve been doing well.”
According to Reed, it’s part of the natural maturation process of a college basketball player.
“It starts with the first-year adjustment period of just getting used to the size, speed, athleticism, and then also the complexities of the game in regard to skill development, offensive and defensive execution, scouting reports and game planning, etc,” the 12th-year River Hawks coach said. “The game is very fast mentally in the beginning.”
Adams admitted as much, saying “The biggest adjustment was probably just the pace of the game, it’s just a lot of faster. Everybody you play is competitive, you don’t take any breaks.”
Adams felt that numerous years of AAU ball helped her, noting that, “If I went right from the CVC to college, I think it would have been a ridiculous adjustment. But playing a lot of years of AAU it wasn’t too bad.”
‘She is successfully taking on the responsibility of being a go-to scorer. That could be scary next year..’
Reed agreed, pointing to the fact that Adams saw decent playing time as a freshman in averaging 6.6 points and 4.4 rebounds.
“She possessed a level of talent that enabled her to get on the court in her first year,” he said. “She started to take flight in her second year and started in two-thirds of our games, averaging just into double figures. It has never been easy for her because all during her career to this point, there have always been several very, very good forwards in our conference who have been a year or two older than her, who have been very tough to play against. Now she is ending her junior year with a big, big bang.”
Adams got some Division I looks coming out of Hamilton, where she was an All-CVC pick her final two seasons. She opted for Division III Susquehanna in order to get a more well-rounded college experience.
“I just didn’t want to commit to that level,” she said. “You never get to go home and stuff like that. I wanted more. Basketball is important, but it’s not my whole life. I wanted my academics to be really important as well.”
She is right on target in that department as well. A public relations major with a business administration minor, Adams has earned an internship working for the Screen Director’s Guild of Ireland in Dublin for three weeks this spring. She had turned down a previous position on the Emerald Isle.
“I’ll be managing all their PR, helping with their events,” said Adams, who is of Irish descent. “I got accepted to do an entire semester in Galway, but I would have had to miss the first half of (this) season. That was just too much to give up.”
It’s easy to see why she would feel that way, as Adams was coming off a sophomore campaign in which she averaged 10.4 points and 6.8 rebounds while starting 15 of the 24 games she played.
When this season began, however, Adams came off the bench in all but one of the River Hawks first 19 games. She moved into the starting lineup when Susquehanna suffered injuries to a forward and a shooting guard, which meant Adams had to pick up the scoring slack.
“Courtney didn’t get out of the gate fast this season, so she ended up in a split-time situation with another forward,” Reed said. “We were doing pretty well, so we let the lineup and substitution pattern ride like that. Courtney is not always as confident as she could be, and she just seemed to defer to that situation. Individual games for her were sort of that way as well—she was a little slow starting, but then she would get it going.”
Adams said it didn’t bother her that she was not starting, because she was still getting a good amount of playing time. She also understood that her offense was not all it could be.
“I went through a slump where my shot was not falling every game,” she said. “I was very annoyed by that.”
Despite being a post player, she is asked to shoot the 3-pointer on occasion.
“It depends on the game and who we’re playing,” she said. “When we play Scranton they have two really good bigs so my points were from the perimeter. When we played Goucher they were really tiny so a lot of my points were inside the paint.”
When her shot wasn’t falling, Adams looked to her roommate/teammate Tess Nichols for help. Well, maybe not help, but she let Nichols guilt her into getting better.
“Yeah, pretty much,” Adams said with a laugh. “When my shot wasn’t falling, I was getting really frustrated. My roommate always stays after practice and works really hard. So I figured if she stayed, it made me think ‘OK, you should stay too.” So I stayed and shot on my own.”
She regained her outside touch and has combined that with an improved inside game that she had to develop in order to survive.
“In high school, I was one of biggest kids out there, I could kind of just drop step and put it in because nobody was up to my height,” said the 6-foot-1 Adams. “When I got to college, there were girls bigger than me, stronger than me. I didn’t know these people really existed, so my post moves really had to get built up.”
Starting with her 21-point effort against Moravian, Adams shot 52 percent (58-for-111) over the next six games, and was a combined 24-for-39 in consecutive wins over Juniata and Goucher.
“You could almost feel it was the time and that a major breakout was coming,” Reed said.
For Adams, it just became a case of feeling better with each outing.
“It’s really doing a lot for my confidence,” Adams said. “I was kind of in a slump. When you’re not making shots game after game, it’s hard to get in the mindset and be like ‘OK I’m gonna go out there and be so good and make all my shots.’ But now that I’ve had consecutive games of doing that, it seems normal for me. In my head I’m gonna go out and do the best I can, and I know all my shots are gonna fall, I’m gonna score 20 points and play really good defense.”
With Adams still in his system for one more year, Reed can’t wait to see how that confidence transcends to her senior season.
“She can shoot the ball from any range,” he said. “She can score the ball in the low post. She can run the court. She has some ability to put the ball on the floor. Now, stir the pot, and that’s a darn good all-around basketball player.
“We have always known her capabilities and potential, and she is growing into that. She is successfully taking on the responsibility of being a go-to scorer. That could be scary next year.”