This story is jointly published by nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune, in collaboration with Salt Lake Community College, to elevate diverse perspectives in local media through student journalism.
When Salt Lake Community College point guard Chase Adams was in seventh grade, a video of him showcasing his spectacular ball handling was posted on the YouTube basketball channel BallislifeMidwest.
In the video — which currently has over 16 million views — Adams breaks ankles, ball fakes and runs circles around competitors who towered over him. Already well-known among the Chicago basketball circle at the time, his popularity grew significantly after the video went viral.
“In Chicago, everybody knew who I was, but after that video, it made things national,” Adams said. “I was only in seventh grade. I got my first [college] offer when I was in eighth grade from Bradley University.”
As one of the highest-ranked point guards in the nation coming into ninth grade, Adams started high school optimistically, but he said everything changed when his brother — who Adams called his best friend — passed away of a grand mal seizure.
“I wasn’t really connected with basketball,” Adams said. “I was kind of out of it mentally, and it took me a while to bounce back from that. To be honest with you, I’m still working on it. That was the biggest reason why I fell off a little bit.”
After high school, Adams played for a year at the University of Portland but entered the transfer portal after his coach was fired. Adams originally had no interest going to junior college, even rejecting SLCC head coach Kyle Taylor’s initial offer to join the Bruins. But after some reflection, Adams decided SLCC was the best fit for him.
“The difference was, coach Kyle said he was going to get players around me, and we were going to have a team full of players that were hungry, coming from Division I programs like myself, and in the same boat as me,” Adams said. “That was exciting to hear, because I know they would have a chip on their shoulder like me.”
Today, Adams is a business marketing major and leader of the best junior college basketball team in the nation, a team that also stands undefeated.
“Chase has been phenomenal,” Taylor said. “He’s a leader, he’s a winner and he works incredibly hard.”
Adams’ leadership influences the rest of his teammates, according to Bruins guard Jordan Brinson.
“Chase is the type of person that’s always going to make sure you’re okay and try to bring the best out of you,” he said. “Chase and I roomed together in the beginning of the year, and both opened to each other and got close. I feel like our relationship off the court as friends helps [us] on the court, because we know how to motivate each other and bring the best out of each other.”
Another teammate of Adams, Doctor Bradley, who is starting small forward and shooting guard, said he sees Adams as a bigger brother.
“[Adams] is always there when I need to talk to him about anything, not just basketball, and I know he’s going to tell the truth,” Bradley said.
The time at SLCC has been just as beneficial to Adams.
His brother’s death is still at the front of his mind, and Adams said it still feels like yesterday. But through the support system found at SLCC, Adams has learned to cope with his loss and let it drive him to become better.
Adams said that SLCC has helped him find his confidence and love for basketball again. Taylor explained how his point guard has grown.
“He has regained his confidence shooting the ball and playmaking,” Taylor said. “We really emphasize coming to JUCO to ‘get healthy,’ and for Chase, that’s been his confidence and his scoring.”
Division I schools like Coastal Carolina, Stetson and Gardner Webb have taken notice of Adams’ elite play and offered him a scholarship to play for their school. With Adams being a sophomore, he will be moving on next season. After all he has endured to regain his confidence, Adams feels ready, once again, to play on basketball’s biggest stage.
Morgan Workman wrote this story as a journalism student at Salt Lake Community College. It is published as part of a new collaborative including nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune.