PHOENIX – Things haven't changed much for Luke Adams.
He is still the undersized, over-achieving individual that told his father one day when he was in the seventh grade that he was going to play in the NBA. OK, that isn't going to happen.
But who could have imagined that Adams would be the highest scorer in the district during his senior year at Big Spring? Who could have imagined he would not only walk-on at Texas Tech but earn a scholarship by his junior year? And who could have imagined that during his first season as a head coach at New Mexico Junior College with an entirely new team, he would win his first six games and start 10-1?
He earned that phone call several weeks back when he joked with his dad, Texas Tech assistant Mark Adams, that his winning percentage was better. Luke Adams has earned almost everything in life mainly because he took it to heart when his father told him, "You are going to have to be a better shooter, a better defender, and you are going to have to play harder than anyone else."
Yes, the younger Adams was undersized (generously listed at 5-foot-8), and he was legally deaf (he wears Cochlear implants). His parents wouldn't have their son feeling sorry for himself for all that life had hurled at him. Just work harder than anyone else and don't expect anything to be given to you.
Adams learned the JUCO game during the years when his father coached at Howard College. Thus, he knew what he was getting into when he was named NMJC's coach before his 27th birthday. And he was more than happy to go out and recruit every one of the players that he has now, because he knew who and what he was getting.
Don't think for one minute that this is payback for all the contacts his coaching father had. Instead, listen to longtime junior college coach Steve Green's assessment.
"His life to this point has been a remarkable story," said Green of Adams, who assisted him two seasons ago when South Plains College was arguably the most talented junior college team in the country. "Luke recruited two of those players and did a great job with us. Nothing he (accomplishes) surprises me."
Now Adams is doing a great job on his own. He brought in a number of Division I transfers as well as a talented player from Nigeria. It is a team undersized like its coach and, in fact, Adams somehow managed to bring in a 5-foot-3 guard who he said has a lot of "Mugsy" Bogues in him but shoots the ball better.
"It's been a lot of fun," Adams said. "It helps when you have guys who want to be coached and want to be better. I was very lucky that my dad was involved with junior college ball for nine years. I saw what he was doing. And I was lucky to learn from Steve Green."
Adams learned to adjust at an early age. He played for three different high school coaches as well as three different college coaches. A student of the game, he took something from everyone.
While not as tall, his Thunderbirds have exceptional quickness and play man-to-man defense well. And it has a young coach who still feels that chip on his shoulder.
"It's always been that way," Adams said. "While my parents were encouraging, others doubted what I can do. I want to be the best coach I possibly can and see where it leads. I am happy where I am and I expect to be successful."
Anything less doesn't fit his M.O.