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UCLA's Adams eager to build on big freshman season

Former Central Gwinnett standout and current UCLA Bruin Jordan Adams plays against Fresno State. (Special Photo)

Former Central Gwinnett standout and current UCLA Bruin Jordan Adams plays against Fresno State. (Special Photo)

LOS ANGELES — Notwithstanding the fact that he towers over many of his peers, basketball player Jordan Adams otherwise fits right in with the rest of the student body on the campus of UCLA.

Sporting jeans, a T-shirt and a book bag draped across his shoulder, he camouflages quite well amongst the other degree-seekers.

But as soon as he tosses on his uniform, laces up his shoes and walks onto a basketball court, it’s evident that he’s anything but a chameleon.

Adams, a 6-foot-6 guard and former Central Gwinnett standout, is making a case for why he may someday be mentioned in the same breath among legendary alums such as Gail Goodrich, Reggie Miller or even the more recent Russell Westbrook.

Presumptuous? Perhaps.

But preposterous, not quite.

Not when one considers Adams fresh off a freshman campaign that saw him drop 15.3 points per contest, lead the PAC 12 in steals and shoot the highest free-throw percentage (84) since former Bruin and current Los Angeles Clipper Darren Collison set the mark in the ’08-’09 season.

Despite these impressive stats though, his efforts appeared often ignored, due in large part by the media’s infatuation with his former teammate and 14th overall draft pick in this year’s NBA Draft, Shabazz Muhammad.

“It was cool, I wasn’t really worried about (Shabazz) getting most of the attention because we’re friends,” said Adams, whose Bruins open the season Friday against Drexel. “Besides, I knew I could play, too.”

The fact that he could “play” was realized by many outside the circle of Bruin nation even more so when a broken foot on the final play in the conference semifinal game left a team devastated and without one of its leaders for the NCAA Tournament.

“I hated it but my teammates seemed more upset than I was,” he said. “I knew there was nothing I could do.”

Once considered a team destined to make a strong run during March Madness became a team demoted to an early exit likelihood. That prophecy was fulfilled once the final buzzer sounded in the second round of the NCAA tourney and the Golden Gophers from Minnesota were the ones with their arms raised.

Now, after a nearly six-month healing and rehabilitation process, one in which saw him running on anti-gravity treadmills and swimming, Adams, who still keeps in touch with his former Central coaches, is ready to get back to work. He hopes to maintain the success level he had from high school — leading the Black Knights to a 29-3 record and Final Four appearance as a sophomore before transferring to Oak Hill Academy (Va.) and winning a national title — that transferred into his debut 2012-13 college season.

Adams began his UCLA career with 21 points off the bench in a win over Indiana State, and had 26 points (making 16 of 16 free throws) in the next game, a victory over UC-Irvine. He followed those up by scoring 25 on James Madison and 22 on Georgetown. No UCLA freshman had ever scored more than 20 points in his first three college games, and Adams bettered that mark by one.

He also closed his freshman season with success, earning All-PAC 12 Tournament honors despite his season-ending injury, and the momentum carried into UCLA’s two exhibitions this season — when he scored 25 and 16 points. With each passing game, he continues to make more of a name for himself at a school with more basketball tradition than most.

But as for life after college if the NBA isn’t in the cards?

“I want to be an actor,” he said, smile rising higher than the arc on one of his 3-point attempts. “I’ve even taken a theatre class.”

If he improves on the season he had last year however, Jordan Adams’ silver screen debut may just have to wait for some NBA dreams.