The conversations were heartfelt, and so was the message. As Rio Adams was sorting through the stress and strain of the recruiting process, searching for his college destination, he’d often turn to his Godbrother, Rodrick Stewart.
Stewart had been a reserve guard at Kansas during the Jayhawks’ NCAA Championship season in 2008. So Adams, a talented young guard himself, would ask his Godbrother to tell him about his alma mater.
The answer, Adams says, usually consisted of three key points. He’d hear about the family atmosphere, how the players were like brothers. He’d hear about the town of Lawrence, how the place supported the program. And, finally, he’d hear about the passion, how the rhythms of the community revolved around one thing: Basketball.
“You can’t really beat it,” said Adams, a Seattle native. “It’s a basketball state. And this is where I wanted to be.”
So, yes, the decision to play basketball at Kansas was the easy part. And when Adams got the opportunity to give an oral commitment to the program last November, he wasted no time calling KU coach Bill Self. But while finishing his final high school season at Rainier Beach High School in the Seattle area — the same school that has produced Rodrick and his twin brother Lodrick, former KU center C.J. Giles and NBA talents Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson — Adams soon found that the hard part was just beginning.
After transferring schools during his junior season — and then transferring again to Rainier Beach before his senior year — Adams’ transcripts and grades got caught up in a litany of bureaucratic red tape.
“The fact that I was having issues getting my transcripts from the school that I was at for three years made it difficult for me,” Adams said.
During the last six months, Adams had to hustle to secure the necessary credits and qualifying test scores, but when he finally arrived in Lawrence on Wednesday afternoon, all the worry and stress was behind him.
“It was on me if I wanted to be here or not,” Adams said, “so I worked as hard as I could, and the results came out the way I wanted them to.”
On Thursday afternoon, Self said that all indications were that Adams’ qualifying materials were in order. He began summer class at KU upon arrival, and he can start practicing with the team as it prepares for its trip to Europe in August.
The timing, Self says, could be key, because Adams may have the ability to contribute right away on a team that will be deep at guard — but short on proven ball handlers.
Seniors Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford figure to start in the backcourt, and all signs point to redshirt freshman Ben McLemore making an early impact. But the other backcourt minutes could belong to whoever emerges among sophomore Naadir Tharpe, freshmen Andrew White and Adams.
“He’s capable of being an elite guard,” Self said of Adams.
This last season, Adams was the Associated Press 3A state Washington player of the year while averaging 21 points per game and leading Rainier Beach to a state title. Adams, whose given name is Anrio but prefers to go by just Rio, says he’s still trying to figure out if he’s more of a point guard or shooting guard. But he certainly appears to be ready to handle the grind of the KU program. When asked whether schools on the West Coast tried to keep him closer to home, Adams said he always felt more comfortable going to a place like Kansas.
“I felt like I was a little bigger than the Pac-12,” Adams said. “I mean, I didn’t really want to stay home.”
And if Self’s words hold true, Adams appears to be shaped in the mold of a traditional Self combo guard.
“I think he can handle like a one and he can score like a two,” Self said.
Adams’ coach at Rainier Beach, Mike Bethea, has not been shy about praising his former player either — he’s used the name Dwyane Wade to describe his style and ceiling — and Self believes Adams may have the talent to surpass the other former stars from his high school.
“I really think Anrio, based on what we’ve been told and what we’ve seen,” Self said, “has a chance to be one of the very best ones to come out of there.”
But for now, all that is in the future. And on Thursday, Adams was right where he wanted to be; just another one of eight scholarship freshmen on KU’s roster, finally ready to get to work.
“I love this game,” Adams said. “It’s gotten me this far, and I’m hoping that it continues to let me go further.”