Hylton’s Adams signs with Celtics

It’s been a long time since Tommy Adams played basketball for Hylton High School.

He averaged 18.7 points per game during his senior year, 1997-98, for the 13-10 Bulldogs. He was better known as a soccer standout, and jokes that he had a hard time earning local postseason basketball honors.

On Friday, Adams signed a one-year, non-guaranteed contract with the NBA’s Boston Celtics. He’ll compete with Shammond Williams and fellow rookie J.R. Bremer for Boston’s point guard job when training camp begins October 1.

“I’m happy,” said Adams, who returned to Virginia this weekend after spending much of last week in Boston. “Making a vet camp was my main goal. The good thing is I’ve signed the contract, and if I get released, it won’t be on a bad note.”

Adams expects to participate in exhibition games with the Celtics, and signed a backup deal with the NBA’s Developmental League, the NBDL, in case he is cut before the season begins. Even in that event, he could be called up and signed by the Celtics or any other team at any time.

Adams, who garnered little attention from college recruiters out of Hylton and went undrafted out of Hampton, passed up a marketing job at Frito-Lay and basketball contracts offered overseas to pursue the NBA, against the advice of his mother and agent.

“I went out on faith,” he said. “Nobody expected me to make the team out of Hampton. I fell through the cracks. I was a player who had trouble making first-team all-district in high school.”

Woodbridge head coach Will Robinson, who coached against Adams in high school and is a deacon at Adams’ church, Ebenzer Baptist in Woodbridge, said Adams didn’t make it this far by luck.

Adams, at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, was a scoring point guard at Hampton. In postseason tournaments and workouts, Adams drew plenty of praise for his jump shot.

“Tommy shoots the ball extremely well,” said Robinson. “He has the body and the athleticism [to make it in the NBA]. Now he just needs to work on the handle and the ability to orchestrate a team.”

Adams, who was the 2001-02 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference player of the year and graduated from Hampton in May, played with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ summer league team. He expected that to be the best fit for him, though he’d received interest from Denver, Seattle, Dallas, Detroit, the L.A. Clippers and Milwaukee. He also attended a mini-camp with the L.A. Lakers earlier this month.

He landed in Boston for a workout on Wednesday and signed a contract on Friday, three days before he expected to. He also signed a contract with the NBDL in case he is cut in training camp.

Adams says Boston is committed to keeping 12 players, the size of an NBA active roster. He could displace someone by playing well in training camp, find himself on the NBA’s version of a practice squad, the three-man injured reserve, or get cut altogether, voiding his one-year deal and sending him to the developmental league. But even there, where eight players were called up to the NBA last season, he can pursue his dream.

Frank Catapano, Adams Boston-based agent, advised him to accept an overseas deal, Adams said earlier this summer. Teams in Greece, Turkey and China were interested in him. Adams’ mother, Marietta, suggested he take the job at Frito-Lay.

“Her thing was to go get a job,” he said. “She had a mother’s reaction, she didn’t want to see her son get hurt [if he failed].”

Adams said his father Tom is proud of him because few people can earn a living doing something he or she loves.

Tony Adams followed in the footsteps of his older brother by going to Hampton. He also believed in Tommy.

“My brother always thought I could make it if I got the right chance,” said Adams.

Adams credits a lot of people for helping get him this far. Robinson recommended him to then-Hampton coach Steve Merfeld. He also put Adams together with Ed Myers and Reggie Kitchen, with whom Adams worked out this summer.

Adams also credits Rev. Dwight Michael and the congregation at church for supporting him along the way.

“A lot of people play a part,” said Robinson. “[But] the person has to be willing to accept that, to want that for himself, and Tommy wanted it.”

Adams had no idea when he was at Hylton that staying the course would get him this far. Neither did Robinson.

“My feeling at the time was that he’d be a good Division I player,” Robinson said.

Now Adams has got his shot in the NBA.

“The Lord led me to the right place,” Adams said of landing in Boston. “I’ve tried to put as many things in his hands as possible.”

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