Nov 27, 2013, 2:47 PM EST
BROOKLYN — Every walk-on for every team in the country has a story.
They aren’t supposed to be playing high-major basketball. They are, essentially, paying for the right to go through insane preseason workouts and to get whipped up on in practice on a daily basis just to be a glorified cheerleader at the end of the bench. They are fan favorites that get a court side seat and a shot at glory during the end of a blow out wins in exchange for the student loans.
Texas Tech’s Luke Adams is one of those kids. He’s listed at 5-foot-9 but probably stands closer to 5-foot-7 on a good day, his build more reminiscent of a computer programmer than a Big 12 athlete. Yet Adams has managed to carve out a role for himself with the Red Raiders. He averaged 19.4 minutes as a freshman, but as Tech has gotten better, he’s seen some of those minutes cut. This season, he’s played 20 minutes in seven games.
But that’s still impressive coming from Adams.
Because what I haven’t told you about him yet is that he was born deaf.
Luke Adams’ defining characteristic as a player isn’t his height and it’s not his hearing impairment.
According to head coach Tubby Smith, it’s his passion, his work ethic. He cares about basketball, he cares about Texas Tech, and he cares about his future in basketball. That’s not something that can be taught.
“Seeing how tough he is. He’s a very committed young man to deal with what he has to deal with with his hearing impairment,” Smith, who took the Tech job this spring, told NBCSports.com when asked what has impressed him the most about Adams.
There’s a reason that Adams has such resolve. Adams’ parents didn’t learn he was deaf until he was two years old. His parents were told by doctors as a child that he would never be able to read or write past the second grade level. They were told to enroll him in a deaf school, to teach him sign language and to prepare for a life with a child that would not be able to hear or speak normally.
Well, Adams’ parents decided they weren’t going to accept that. (Adams’ father is the Director of Basketball Operations for the Texas Tech basketball program, but he’s declined every interview request regarding his son since he took the position.)
“They said no, we’re going to try to teach him and do our best to give him [a regular life] and make the most of the opportunity,” Adams said. They got him a speech therapist and sent him to a regular school. He got a hearing aid for his left ear and, when he was 11, he received a cochlear implant in his right ear.
It was tough to deal with being the deaf kid, although Adams got through it despite being held back in first and second grade. All of the work paid off, as Adams doesn’t have a noticeable speech impediment today.
When you can make it through all of that as a kid, battling for a roster spot as a 5-foot-nothin’ walk-on with Bama Bangs and a head band that holds hearing aids in place doesn’t seem all that daunting.
And to Adams’ credit, he makes an effort to give back. He’ll visit deaf schools and talk to kids that are currently going through what he’s been through. He’s walking, talking, hearing proof that being deaf is not a deterrent to following your dreams if you don’t allow it to be. Don’t believe me? Adams is now on scholarship at Texas Tech.
“A lot of people ask me to go out there and speak,” Adams said. “Anything that I can do to give back. When you’re growing up, all you want is hope, so anything I can do for those kids, I’m willing to do. I spoke to these fifth graders, and the first thing I said was ‘Don’t take no for an answer.’”
Adams may have the kind of stubborn, dogged work ethic that will allow him to accomplish just about anything that he wants out of life, but he’s also smart enough to be a realist. He could spend every waking hour for the next two years of his life in the gym, but he’ll never be an NBA player. There are certain physical limitations that an NBA prospect cannot overcome. Scouts wouldn’t give a second thought to his hearing aids if he was a foot taller.
So Adams has dedicated his life to pursuing another goal: becoming a Division I basketball coach. That’s part of the reason that he decided to go to Texas Tech. He could have gone the JuCo route and, as the leading scorer in Texas 3A high school basketball as a senior, there were assuredly programs at lower levels — North Texas and UT-Arlington, among others, according to Adams — that had offered him a scholarship.
But he wanted to learn from the best. He wanted to build a network at the highest level of the sport. And while Texas Tech basketball is, quite frankly, only Texas Tech basketball, it’s important to remember that he’s played for three different coaches in his three seasons in Lubbock. Two — Smith and Billy Gillispie — are former head coaches at Kentucky. One — Chris Walker — played at Villanova and was previously an assistant with Jay Wright.
Adams has done everything he can to absorb every bit of information available from each coach.
“He knows the game extremely well, he’s a coach on the bench,” Smith said. “He’s always asking questions, always in my ear on the sideline, ‘Coach, why are we running this? What do you think of this? What do you think of that?’”
Ironically enough, being deaf has helped Adams in that regard. It’s natural, he says, for people with hearing problems to be more observant of their surroundings, to rely more on visual cues than people that have never had to live without the ability to hear. This summer, he traveled to the Deaflympics in Bulgaria with Team USA, an event where he had to play deaf. He couldn’t use hearing aids or implants.
“Being able to play hearing and then play without hearing ability makes me appreciate being able to hear and communicate,” Adams said. “You have to use your eyes a lot more than your ears on the court. I think it worked to my advantage because I kind of see more.”
Adams gets heckled quite often on the road.
There are fans that make fun of his Justin Bieber haircut and students that get on him about his headband. On Monday night, when he took the court for Tech in a loss to Pitt, the Panther fans in attendance started chanting ‘Rudy’ at him, a reference to the walk-on football player at Notre Dame immortalized in the movie named after him.
It’s not uncommon.
But Adams doesn’t have a problem with it.
Because, after all, he can hear the taunts.
Nov 23, 2014, 3:56 AM EST
Concerns about Cook moving off the ball seem foolish through five games.
Nov 23, 2014, 2:00 AM EST
No. 21 Nebraska was the lone ranked team to fall on Saturday, but give them credit for being willing to go on the road to play a dangerous opponent.
Nov 23, 2014, 12:05 AM EST
Devin Davis has been rehabbing from injuries suffered on November 1 in his hometown of Indianapolis.
Nov 22, 2014, 11:33 PM EST
Most people already knew that Winslow’s a high-level athlete. Here’s some evidence for those who somehow didn’t.
Nov 22, 2014, 11:22 PM EST
Before their game against No. 21 Nebraska, Rhode Island took the floor in shirts honoring Avery Harriman.
Nov 22, 2014, 9:44 PM EST
Florida faces Georgetown in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis Wednesday.
Nov 22, 2014, 9:37 PM EST
The score was tied 41-41 with six minutes to go. Rams and Cornhuskers traded the lead five times after that.
Nov 22, 2014, 8:06 PM EST
Wyoming may have scored just 56 points, but all 22 of their made field goals were assisted and they shot nearly 53 percent from the field.
Nov 22, 2014, 6:17 PM EST
Boutte’s shot came seconds after he corralled a wayward pass from teammate Marcellus Barksdale.
Nov 22, 2014, 5:43 PM EST
Eustachy led the Rams to a school-record 26 wins in 2012-13.
Nov 22, 2014, 4:58 PM EST
Meeks accounted for two double-doubles all season in 2013-14. He’s now matched that total through three games.
Nov 22, 2014, 4:46 PM EST
Providence jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead and cruised to an easy win over Florida State.
Nov 22, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
Notre Dame guards Demetrius Jackson and Jerian Grant played well to help lead the Irish to victory.
Nov 22, 2014, 1:40 PM EST
The 2015 CBE Classic will have a local flavor.
Nov 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
Ball State will be without a key piece for the immediate future.
Nov 22, 2014, 11:30 AM EST
Florida will be without a key guard for at least a few games.
Nov 22, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
More depth is coming for the Aggies.
Nov 22, 2014, 9:30 AM EST
A solid Saturday slate features multiple ranked teams in action.
Nov 22, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
A tremendous story continues to get better as Lauren Hill surprised teammates and fans by checking into her second college basketball game and scoring again on Friday night.
Nov 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
Cornell shouldn’t have given D.J. Newbill a chance.
- Quinn Cook is thriving as an off-guard, and No. 4 Duke will reap the benefits 0
- Rhode Island upsets No. 21 Nebraska, 66-62, in overtime 0
- Lauren Hill surprises teammates, fans with another layup in her second college game (VIDEO) 2
- The ‘Chaminade Crew’ and how Jonathan Holmes has changed the culture of Texas hoops 0
- Early struggles of Syracuse, Kaleb Joseph example of the downside of early entry 2
- UPDATE: Texas loses starting point guard to left wrist injury, out 4-6 weeks 0
- Burning Questions: Who’s poised to surprise (or disappoint) people in the Big Ten? 2
- Poll: 54 percent of people think Kentucky beats the 76ers, 54 percent of people are dumb (31)
- No. 1 Kentucky’s size, depth overwhelms No. 5 Kansas, makes 40-0 seem possible? (5)
- No. 1 Kentucky survives Buffalo despite ugly effort offensively (4)
- Pregame Shootaround: No. 14 Iowa State needs to be on upset alert tonight (3)
- Miami upsets No. 8 Florida thanks to the Angel Rodriguez takeover (3)