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Adams Soared to New Level


The Westchester High guard sprinted toward the basket on a three-on-one fast break. An uncontested layup was his for the taking, but instead he lobbed the ball to teammate Hassan Adams, who slammed home a rim-rattling dunk.

Coach Ed Azzam, watching from the sideline, immediately blew his whistle to halt the practice.

"That was not a smart play," Azzam barked.

Countered the guard: "Coach, I know, but it's Hassan."

He had a point. After all, it's easy to go for the flamboyant move when there's a player the caliber of Adams in your midst.

The Times' boys' basketball player of the year had a penchant for the big finish, whether it was with a thunderous dunk late in the Comets' City Section championship victory over Fairfax or two free throws that secured a state Division I title against Oakland Tech.

Adams wasn't one of the more prolific scorers in Southern California--he averaged 18.3 points along with 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists--but that was primarily because he played on a virtual all-star team, with four teammates averaging double figures in scoring.

What mattered was that the 6-foot-4 senior guard was at his best when his team needed him most. Consider a sampling of Adams' big-game performances:

* In the Comets' first of four games with rival Fairfax, he scored 19 of his 26 points in the second half of a narrow victory.

* Against national power Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy, he made 12 of 16 shots and finished with a game-high 30 points.

* In the state title game against Oakland Tech, he scored 24 points.

"It wasn't about scoring with our team," Adams said. "It was about winning. I did what I needed for us to win."

Azzam said one of Adams' principal strengths was his competitiveness. The fiery player would even get in Azzam's face in practice if he felt the coach wasn't doing what he needed to get everybody on the same page.

"He's the kind of guy, if you're not ready to go out there and give 100%, you just need to get out of the way ... even in practice," Azzam said. "If you're not going to fight for this, you're not going to get it. That's his way of thinking."

Even players from the teams that beat Westchester (32-2) were in awe of Adams.

"I respect his game, I respect him as a person, I respect everything about him," Fairfax forward Evan Burns said. "I think when we play against each other, our games both elevate."

Adams and Burns will likely face off several more times in the coming years, as Adams has signed with Arizona and Burns has committed to UCLA. Adams said he picked Arizona in part because it has been a pipeline to the NBA for guards such as Jason Terry, Miles Simon and Mike Bibby.

Adams' rise to stardom has been steep. He was considered a solid but unspectacular player as a freshman at Wilmington Banning, a sophomore at Los Angeles Verbum Dei and a junior at Westchester. Then he broke through with a big showing last summer and continued his rise to prominence during the season.

"Obviously, he's one of the best players to come through Westchester with his athletic ability," Azzam said. "On a team with less talent, he would have stood out even more."

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