ALLEGANY – Jaylen Adams remembered his first visit to the Reilly Center like it was yesterday. He was finishing his senior year of high school in 2014 and scrambling for a scholarship when St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt convinced him to visit the campus with students on summer break.
Adams poked his head into the empty gymnasium. When the bleachers were folded in place, it looked like many others on college campuses. But for a conference game before a packed house, it morphs into a steamy old joint with character and soul and one of the most energized venues in college basketball.
It's a special place, Schmidt told him, you'll see. Neither knew how special it would become for a special player, how Adams would lead the Bonnies over the next four seasons, become one of the greatest players in program history, build a special relationship with the fans and bid farewell.
"Everybody always told me, 'These four years are going to fly by, and it's going to be a blink,' " Adams said. "I never took it too serious, but it was. It was a blink."
The senior guard was speaking from the Hall of Fame room, where he will take his place someday soon, a day before he scored 34 points in a wild 117-113 triple-overtime victory over Davidson and leaving the Reilly Center in style. Less than two weeks ago, the Bonnies won a thriller over Rhode Island that was hailed as one of the greatest games ever. It was a bore compared to Tuesday's backyard brawl with Davidson.
St. Bonaventure lost three starters after Adams, fellow senior Idris Taqqee and Courtney Stockard fouled out in the second overtime or later. Senior Matt Mobley came to the rescue with 11 points in the third overtime and made five critical free throws in the final 50 seconds to beat the Wildcats and move into sole possession of second place in the Atlantic 10.
Mobley finished with 34 points while Mobley had 33 and Stockard a career-high 31 for the Bonnies, who improved to 13-4 in the conference and 23-6 overall. Peyton Aldridge scored 45 points, breaking Stephen Curry's school record at Davidson for points in a road game, before he fouled out in the third OT. Freshman Kellan Grady had 39 points for Davidson, which lost despite scoring the most points for a visiting team in the Reilly Center.
"It was a great game, a great game to coach," Schmidt said. "Give kudos to the community. Without the students here, they rallied around us. They were terrific, and we wouldn't have won without them. It was Senior Day. Those three seniors will never forget this day for the rest of their lives. It's special."
Adams arrived on campus with the intention of leaving his imprint on the program, and that's exactly what he did right up to his last regular-season home game. He kept Bona in the game late in regulation and the first overtime with a Steph-like shooting performance that was reminiscent of his play a few weeks ago.
"Craziest game I've ever been a part of," Adams said. "I couldn't have asked for anything better. It was a special game that's probably going to go down in the history books. I was happy to be a part of it."
If Adams' last game was the most entertaining game of his career – and it darned well could have been – it was one of many that he'll save to memory for future use. Indeed, it was hard to believe four years had passed.
Adams will exit as one of the best guards ever at St. Bonaventure. The 6-foot-2 point guard, a smooth ball-handler and slick passer, with games remaining on the schedule, is the Bonnies' highest-scoring guard, sixth all-time scorer overall and third in career assists. He has 1,856 points and 551 assists going into the regular-season finale Saturday at Saint Louis.
Earlier this season, he became the third player in program history with back-to-back 40-point games. He put on a shooting display like none other in the Reilly Center in a 44-point effort against Saint Louis. He's averaging 20.8 points, was fifth in the nation in three-point shooting percentage (.482) and was leading candidate for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.
Adams has participated in 83 victories, tied with Taqqee for most ever. He helped Bona to three straight 20-wins seasons for the second time in history. The Bonnies, who have an 11-game winning streak, are hoping to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years and could win 26 games or more for the first time ever.
Yeah, he's had some career.
"He's been everything to our program," Schmidt said. "As the point guard, he's our quarterback. As the quarterback goes, so goes the team. He has become a better leader. He's not the type of kid that will get into people's faces. He leads more by example. Without him, we wouldn't have had the success that we've had."
It all started when Schmidt recruited him to the small, sleepy campus along the Southern Tier, handed him the keys to the offense and watched him blossom into one of the best players in the conference and an NBA prospect. For Adams, it began when he walked into the Reilly Center and saw his future.
Bob Lanier Court would become his oasis, his escape from the stresses of college and the boredom of campus life. It was where he would be left alone to solve the world's problems, while creating others for his opponents who dared enter his domain, and evolve into a man.
"You have to focus on staying true to you and picking up a basketball and going to the gym," Adams said. "That's what helped me grow. You go in there and go to work. Nobody knows what it's like if you walk in during a practice. But when it fills up, it's a whole other story. It's one of the best environments in college basketball."
For four seasons, he gave the spirited legion of Bona backers everything he had and more than they expected. In return, they rallied behind him, turned up the volume and carried him throughout his career. Together, they celebrated a wonderful era in local college hoops.
It couldn't have worked out much better. Adams, when he arrived, was promised nothing other than an equal opportunity. Truth be told, Schmidt expected another 6-2 guard from Baltimore, junior-college transfer Iakeem Alston from famed Dunbar High, to become his starting point guard.
Schmidt realized in short order that Adams was better and, once he learned from freshman mistakes, had potential for greatness. He was the son of a high school coach, Darryl Adams. He had great instincts and understood the game beyond his years. Alston apparently saw the same. He left Bona after one season.
"Shoot, it took two or three practices. We knew he was going to be better than what we thought he would be," Schmidt said. "He had that feel and understanding how to play. Right away, he made good decisions. I trusted him. I knew he had it in him to become the player he is now. He has that feel. It's God-given."
Adams could have left St. Bonaventure numerous times. After his sophomore season, when St. Bonaventure won a share of the conference but was snubbed for the NCAA Tournament, rumors were rampant he was transferring to a bigger school in a better conference that would give him more exposure.
Last year, he attended NBA camps in an attempt to see where he stacked up against professional players, stirring talk he would leave early. Adams never really considered leaving. He was determined to build his career, felt indebted to Schmidt and knew he couldn't ask for a better situation.
Adams rarely left the floor, averaging 36 minutes per game while starting every contest he ever played, 105 games in all. Over the past two years in particular, the Bonnies became Jaylen Adams' team. And when it came time to name him captain, he evolved from a very good guard to an elite player in the conference.
"He's a pro," said Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot, who coached LeBron James in high school and watched Adams torch his team for 40 points on Feb. 3. "I've had four NBA guys. I think he's going to be on somebody's roster before it's over. He's a team-oriented guy. He can play at both ends. He can pass the ball, has a good understanding of the game and great temperament."
"Adams is great," Richmond coach Chris Mooney said a week later after the guard scored 24 points in a 99-87 victory over the Spiders. "To have a guy have back-to-back 40-points games, and he doesn't hunt his shot, is amazing. He's an instinctual player. He makes great passes, great decisions. I don't think his mind is cluttered with scoring."
Adams benefited by having two terrific backcourt mates during his four years. Marcus Posley transferred from a junior college when Adams was a freshman. Posley was replaced by Mobley, a fantastic perimeter shooter and one-half of the best guard tandem in the conference.
Opposing teams were forced to choose the method of their demise. Taking away one meant the wrath of the other, assuming Bona didn't come with both barrels like they did Tuesday while combining for 67 points.
"Best backcourt in the country, period," Adams said.
The only goal now is playing in the Big Dance. Two years ago, Adams pleaded for Bona to play a tougher schedule and show people what the program was all about. This year, the Bonnies beat Maryland without Adams, who was sidelined with an ankle injury, before knocking off Syracuse in a game in which he had 23 points and nine rebounds.
On Tuesday, he played his final game in the Reilly Center. As it was when he was a senior in high school, the students were on break. Someday, he'll return to have his jersey retired knowing it was a special place. Funny, but others would argue he was a major reason the place was so special.
"It was one of those things on my list coming in," Adams said. "Me and my dad, one of the things we wanted to do was change the culture. We knew this place had a great basketball history, but we wanted to make a stamp on here. I credit Coach Schmidt, and I credit my parents. I feel like I did that. But we're not done yet."