Saturday, December 20, 2008

Meet Adrian Oliver

We've heard about him for some time now, caught glimpses of him playing in high school from a few dated on-line videos and now he is finally ready and able to play as a Spartan this afternoon against Northern Colorado.

So who is Adrian Oliver?

Here's what we found out from talking to him recently.

His favorite quote is this one: "Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them, a desire, a dream, a vision."

Why so?

"Basically because champions are made before they even start playing," Oliver said. "You have to have the desire, the heart, the vision in the first place. Sure it takes hard work and training but that comes after."

Oliver played every sport as a youngster -- soccer, track, baseball, football and basketball -- but it was the latter that won out. He lettered as a freshman in football but the gridiron was a temporary way station. "My friends were playing and it was something for me to try," Oliver offered.

It was the influence of cousins Tracy Cole and Bobby Cole, who played college hoops at Bowie State and Texas Southern respectively, that won out. "My cousin Bobby is like my brother," Oliver said. "When we are in Modesto, he's at my house or I'm at his place. He was always playing basketball and I wanted to be like him." Cole is now an assistant basketball coach at Modesto Christian High, his high school alma mater.

What was most interesting to us was the part of the conversation about personal improvement and, for lack of a better phrase, a high basketball IQ.

About the process of getting better, Oliver said, "I approach it like a business. The idea is to make my weaknesses into strengths. My first year at Washington, on-the-ball defending was one of my weaker aspects. Now, I consider locking somebody down a strength. But I'm always working on all the aspects of my game."

This led us to recall a paragraph from a 2003 AW Prince-written article on Oliver and his high school teammates Michael Porter. Here it is:

"...Growing up around the [Modesto Christian] program inspired Oliver and Porter to improve their games. "What I remember most about those teams is the way they practiced," Oliver said in speaking about his predecessors. "Each practice was played at such a high intensity level that when it was game-time, it was easy to see why the team went out and won so much. They were prepared. They were so competitive..."

As for basketball smarts, we related an incident we saw during an intra-squad game/practice earlier this season. Oliver was defending his man out on the wing, 18-20 feet from the basket. A Spartan at the top of the key then began penetrating, got into the paint and attempted a short jumper. Once Oliver saw the dribble-drive beginning, he ran over into the paint, jumped and blocked the shot -- seemingly as if out of nowhere. It was as if he knew what was going to take place before it did. "My whole life, I've been able to see plays before they happen -- not every time but a lot. Things just sort of slow down for me. It's something God has blessed me with."

We closed by asking Oliver what the Spartan fans will see beginning on Saturday afternoon? His reply: "They will see someone very competitive, someone who wants to win and hates to lose, who can score and is happy to step into the role of being a vocal leader."

Sounds like an early holiday present.

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