Josh Adams is not afraid to fly.
Granted, Wyoming’s 6-foot-2 shooting guard isn’t the largest projectile hovering below the Arena Auditorium rims. But with a full head of steam, he soars as high as anybody.
Before lift-off, Adams first must gather speed on the runway. The sophomore is the focal point of many Wyoming fast breaks, a blur in white and brown streaking along the sideline. He catches a pass and dribbles hard towards the basket, weaving through and around arms that try in vain to poke the ball away and extinguish his forward momentum.
A few feet from the rim, Adams loads up, crouching low, bending his knees, his engines waiting to fire. And then, finally, lift-off.
The sophomore in the air is a spectacular thing. He continues to rise — up, up, up — a compact body fighting gravity and winning. And once he goes up, the basketball goes down, slammed through the hoop in emphatic finality.
His teammates know it’s coming. But then again, they’re always surprised.
He’s just…he’s just a crazy athlete,” junior guard Riley Grabau said, pausing to chuckle and shake his head. “When you see him go up you think, ‘What’s going to happen?’ He always surprises you every time he goes up.
In his second year at Wyoming (11-6, 2-2), Adams is averaging 11.6 points per game, second on the team behind Larry Nance Jr. And his ability to fly is a primary reason.
“The guys on the team joke around with me that I have one state of mind: ‘Run, run, run, run, jump,’” Adams said. “The only thing that really stops me is if they’re setting up to take a charge or if I can drop off to Larry [Nance] or DC [Derek Cooke Jr.] or kick out for a three.
“Other than that, if they’re not in good position, I’m going to attack them. I have confidence, and I know my team has confidence that I can make something happen for them.”
The difference between this season and last, for Adams, is not the ability to jump and finish while his forehead glances the rim. This time around, he can absorb contact and still get that shot off.
“I really learned a lot of that this summer,” Adams said. “Last year a big thing for me was slowing me down. I was going too fast all the time, had a lot of offensive fouls, a lot of turnovers.
“Now I’m able to realize what the defense is trying to do and manipulate and contort my body in the air and finish at the rim with athleticism. That’s something I really learned at the college level, because these guys are bigger, stronger and more athletic.”
Even with a 6-foot-10, 250-pound shot-blocker hovering below the rim, Adams is cleared for take-off. He jumps into the opposing body, absorbs the blow, twists towards the basket and kisses his shot off the glass.
Adams may be a high-speed aircraft, but he has learned to become both strong enough and balanced enough to sustain a little turbulence and not get knocked off his path.
“He goes up strong and does his little hang in the air, acrobatic finish,” Grabau said, mimicking the way Adams takes a foul and throws a shot up. “We’re going to need a lot more of those as the season goes on.”
For Wyoming — a team that struggles at times to score in volume — fast break baskets are a major food group in a winning diet. And Adams, who has also attempted the second-most free throws on the team, is always a few quick steps away from lift-off.
“He’s crazy athletic. He has like a 40, 42-inch vertical and great body control,” freshman guard Trey Washington III said.
“He’s just a freakish athlete, and in transition that makes him a dangerous, dangerous person.”