Playing for the UNLV Runnin' Rebels is a dream come true for Wink Adams.
Adams, a native of Houston, fell in love with the team when he watched it play in 1991 on television. He told his mom, Reandre, that he would someday play for UNLV.
Adams' mom, a former college basketball player herself, knew just how to get him ready. She forced him into playing with older kids from the time he was 7. He would be banging heads against 13 and 14-year-olds, mostly friends of his older brother, Jarvis.
"She threw me into the fire," Adams told the Las Vegas Sun recently. "My brother's friends showed me no mercy. It made me tougher. I'll jump into anyone no matter how."
That competitive spirit is what made him one of the outstanding high school point guards in the nation at Gulf Shores Academy, and what made him such an attractive prospect to the UNLV coaching staff.
After two years, you could say it's been a good match. Adams, the Rebels' 6-foot guard, averaged a second-best 13.9 a game last season, including 67 3-point field goals, and was an important reason why UNLV won 30 games last season and reached the Sweet 16.
"Wink really improved in his second year last season, and we anticipate continued progress," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "He competes and works so hard and wants very badly to keep getting better. I think he will have an outstanding season."
Being the only returning starter, he'll inherit somewhat of a new role this season - team leader.
"Yeah, I think they are relying on me for that," Adams said after Tuesday's practice in preparation for home games against Louisville and Nevada this week. "We have such a young team. Everybody has a certain role they have to play.
"It (leadership) just happens. I know I needed to be more vocal. My job is easy because we have a lot of young players who listen."
Kruger said Adams has done a nice job in that role.
"Wink does that naturally," Kruger said. "Teammates look at how he competes and works. He is respected by all the other players. He leads by example."
Adams has become an all-around player after two years with Kruger.
Adams can hurt you taking the 3-pointer or driving to the basket. He also has turned into a solid defensive player, registering 55 steals a year ago, eighth-best in the Mountain West Conference. He usually draws the opposition's best guard, and on Saturday is likely to be matched up against Marcelus Kemp or Brandon Fields.
The UNLV junior said he's made strides offensively, especially shooting the ball. He shot nearly 40 percent in his first two seasons and his off to a 43 percent start through the Rebels' first three games this year.
"I had a hard time (shooting) when I was younger," Adams said. "I was shooting it too low. It was going in sometimes, but when I missed it would be off line. I worked at keeping my hands higher. It's getting better.
"In high school, I was more of a scoring point guard. The coach wanted me to put up shots. He wanted to score a lot of points."
Kruger said that when Adams locks in and focuses on something, improvement is around the corner.
"As a shooter he's improved every year he's been here," Kruger said. "He's shooting the ball well for us right now. That comes with staying with it and working hard on it."
Now, Adams is more confident with the ball in his hands, and that's dangerous because shooting is all about confidence.
"I like taking the big shot," he said. "I always want to be in a position to step up and help my teammates."
The ADAMS FILE
Year in school: Junior
Major: University studies
Favorite pro athlete: Chauncey Billups of the Detroit Pistons