Adams' journey: How this Fil-Am found his way to Manila
MANILA, Philippines – It now feels like a period from a different lifetime ago, but only half a year back, Roosevelt Adams was considered a can’t-miss prospect, paving the way for him to be selected as the top pick in what was an unusual 2019 PBA Draft.
He is a unique 6-foot-5 talent with a reliable shooting stroke, underrated footwork, and fearless attacking ability. As far as resumes go, his physical attributes make for a long-term and productive basketball player in Philippine hoops – a belief that was sparked by his MVP-winning performance in the Draft Combine.
Adams was born in Arizona, but moved around a lot through different destinations in the United States and Japan, before finally settling down in Riverside, South California for his teenage years. Such was the nature of having a dad who was in the military.
It was only at 15 years old, when Adams was a high school sophomore, that he entertained the thought of pursuing basketball as a serious career.
The Filipino-American even received recruitment intrigue from Adamson University and San Beda University, but ultimately, put a move to the Philippines on hold.
Why? His Filipina mom, Anita, wasn’t convinced Roosevelt was ready to take on the challenge of becoming a collegiate athlete in Metro Manila, where she lived until she was 18 years old.
So after high school, Adams played two years of junior college hoops, then received a scholarship to play at the College of Idaho.
Following his collegiate career, the now 25-year-old made a surprising decision to hang up his sneakers. As far as basketball was concerned, he was convinced he had already reached the end of the road.
Trying his luck in the NBA was out of the question.
But a chance to make a career out of hoops in the Philippines wasn’t.
When the opportunity presented itself, he took the leap.
“It’s crazy just to know that just a couple of years after I was about to hang up my shoes and call it quits and start a work life – an office type of thing – and now here I am in a different country, playing the sport I love, and have people behind me just pushing me and pushing me,” he said in a phone interview.
Adams left lasting impressions with his impressive performance in the PBA D-League and FIBA 3x3, where he made new friends like Troy Rike, Franky Johnson, Joshua Munzon, and others.
He also found an opportunity to connect with cousins, uncles, and aunties based in the Philippines. The language barrier remains a bit of a challenge, but Adams is working on his Tagalog and feels his relatives better understand him now.
“I talk to them every now and then, especially during the quarantine time, to see how they are doing,” he says about the family he hadn’t seen in nearly two decades.
“It’s been a blessing just seeing them again.”
Years later, as a new decade has arrived with unprecedented challenges for humanity, Adams spends his days with his wife Adilene at an apartment in Bonifacio Global City, where they’ve been sheltering in place as part of a nation-imposed physical distancing rule.
The two began dating 6 years ago, and got married only less than a year ago, before the couple would move halfway across the world for their new adventure.
“She’s been by my side ever since the first day,” he says about his high school sweetheart. “She’s been through my downs and I’m going to take her through my ups.”
“As long as we got each other,” he added, “we’re good.”
At this particular point, the two may need each other more than ever.
“I wish I could do more than what I could do,” he admitted.
As sports takes a backseat while the rest of the world battles COVID-19, Roosevelt, like every other player in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), has attempted to remain in tip-top shape while uncertainty looms.
“All I can do is dribble. I can’t shoot a ball,” he conveyed. “The restrictions are what’s been holding myself and other players down. Hopefully in a couple of weeks it will be over.”
The current enhanced community quarantine for Metro Manila has been officially extended until mid-May, and for all local athletes, the reality is there won't be any live sporting events for a while, if not canceled altogether, for the rest of the year.
PBA commissioner Willie Marcial has already announced that the league’s current season may be limited to just one conference instead of the typical trio, although there’s also a good bet it will be entirely canceled to appease health and safety concerns.
If the latter turns to reality, then the 45th season of the oldest basketball league in Asia would have had a grand total of only one game played from back in March.
What’s taking place now is a far cry from the expectations Adams had while his team paraded around the Smart Araneta Coliseum during the PBA’s 2020 opening ceremonies.
Despite being drafted by a Columbian Dyip franchise, which has attained little to no success since entering the PBA in 2014 (unless you consider their multiple rounds of changing team names as accomplishments), Roosevelt was fired up for what they could potentially accomplish, especially as his eyes veered towards the championship trophy.
“From the practices we had before the suspension, I believe we had a great opportunity to get in the playoffs,” he proclaimed with confidence.
“We had great people on the team. From my background, I’ve been part of a lot of winning programs, and I believe if I bring my winning attitude to this team, it will become contagious.”
One of the “great people” Roosevelt referred to was CJ Perez, a former MVP in college who quickly established himself as a star player in the pro level, too.
Perez, named Rookie of the Year and part of the Mythical First Team from last season, made a quick impression on Adams in practice.
“[In practice] with CJ, I’m always guarding him. It’s not too easy. He’s very explosive. He’s a great player,” said Adams, who took a few seconds to pause before his next statement, which was said with a laugh.
“It’s hard to guard him, for sure.”
Those practice sessions also presented Adams the opportunity to adapt to the Philippine style of basketball, which he admits to be more physical than what he experienced back home.
It’s the same sentiment echoed by many other Fil-Ams, most of whom need an adjustment period before becoming reliable ball players in the local scene.
“A lot of stuff is taught differently,” Adams explains the difference. “For example, boxing out, sometimes I get over the back calls or I get fouls called on me for giving block outs. I’m boxing somebody out and I get fouled for being on his way of getting a rebound.”
In the US, the player with box out position is usually given an advantage by referees.
“It’s starting to [grow] a little bit on me, just a little bit, but it’s much different; I’m not used to it. Like I said, after a while, you have to get used to it if you want to be one of the best players and want to compete night in, night out, and make a name for myself. I’ve got to go through all of it.”
His education, however, has been put on hold.
For how long?
To be honest, no one really knows.
“Once all of this is all over,” said Adams, “everybody’s not going to complain about one practice ever again.
“So it should be good.” – Rappler.com