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  • Writer's pictureGarrett Cote

Hocking's Trevell Adams is Tough Enough

In June of 2016, a day after LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship, a 15-year-old in Columbus, Ohio was working on his own basketball dreams.

That summer morning, Trevell Adams was hurrying to basketball practice. He grabbed a doughnut on his way out the door and brushed off his big sister’s offer to give him a ride – it was a one-way ticket, and he would need to walk home. Instead, he jumped on his rundown bike with a flat back tire.

As he pedaled furiously, Adams noticed a car turn sharply onto the street and speed toward him. After it passed, he looked back and saw someone fire a gun out of the swerving vehicle. Adams leaped off his bike, but he was not quick enough. A stray bullet struck him in the hip. He collapsed into a puddle. Soaking wet, Adams managed to crawl to the side of a house and lay there waiting for help.

A woman came out of the house.

“I think I got shot!”

She lifted up his practice jersey, saw his wound, and said, “Oh yes! You did!” She called an ambulance, which took Adams to the nearest hospital.

Word of the drive-by shooting gone bad (do they ever “go good?”) spread and Adams’ family was soon gathered around his hospital bed. Their concern was well-founded. Their relief was delivered by the doctors – Adams had suffered a minor wound with no lasting damage, but for a traumatic memory.

“It was heartbreaking because that’s not the lifestyle that Trevell has been a part of, ever, in his life, and neither has our family,” Staci Rouse, Trevell’s mother, said in a recent interview. “So, it was really difficult at that moment to tell where he was going to go with sports, and even the trauma of leaving the house.”

That life-threatening incident, where a few inches in a bullet’s trajectory, made all the difference for Adams. Where he was going to go with sports, on that fateful day, was a question yet to be determined.

(Photos by Kevin Wilker)

Hocking College, a Division-II junior college in Nelsonville, Ohio, is the basketball home for the talented Adams. At first glance, he may not be the typical prototype you would imagine for a player who can dominate, but his game speaks for itself. Whether he is soaring through the air to hammer home a dunk (despite his generous – generous – 6-foot stature) knocking down shots from any spot on the floor, or locking down the opposing team’s best guard, he stands out.

No doubt about it.

Averaging 25.0 points per game, good for third in the country, Adams led Hocking to a 24-1 record at the end of the 2022 regular season.

His path to Hocking was rougher than sandpaper. COVID-19 rocked his recruiting process, skeptics have constantly questioned if he could continue his high school success because of his undersized frame, and, above all, the stray bullet nearly put a premature end to his career.

When his older brother, Michael Morgan, arrived at the hospital that June day, he saw Adams lying helpless in the hospital bed. Growing up, Morgan had pushed his younger brother around, trying to toughen him up, and oftentimes would make Adams cry. But this time, it was his big brother who showed emotion.

“Once my brother got to me, he was crying,” Adams said. “First time I had seen my brother cry since he had gotten a whooping since we were really little, like elementary. (He said) ‘I’m sorry I was so hard on you little man. Just please, relax, we're here for you, and I’m sorry.’ And he stepped away…”

His older brother’s tears reflected the family’s emotions. How could a random shooting happen to a more good-hearted kid? A kid who loved to joke around and bring light to his family every night? A kid who appreciatively devoured any food his grandmother put in front of him? A kid who would make a basketball hoop out of bent hangers to shoot wads of paper through? A kid who worked so hard to keep his head out of any dangerous and reckless activity like a random drive-by shooting?

Released from the hospital after two days, Adams was determined to hoop as soon as possible. He moved to Cincinnati to be with his dad, Leavell Adams, for the recovery process. That took about a month. His leg was stiff and heavy, but he was hungry and committed, two attributes he credits to his older brother, who was also quite the basketball player himself before a shoulder injury redirected his career path.

“(Michael) definitely gets credit for some of it,” Adams said. “He pushed me to this point.”

Even with the incident the summer after his freshman year, Adams had a remarkable high school career. He thrived as a running back in football, which was the sport he liked most. What he didn’t like was that his offensive linemen weren’t much bigger than he was. The prospects of surviving the season in one piece were dim. Adams chose to put football in the rearview mirror and focus on basketball.

“He was really a great football player, and I wish he was still playing,” his mother said. “I believe the decision was made because the football program did not have the strongest line, and so I don’t think it offered him the type of security he would need to stay off the injured list, especially to be ready to roll over into basketball season.”

Adams chose wisely. During his career at Columbus South School, the team won two city championships, two district championships, one regional championship and a state runner-up.

His levitating, eye-rubbing dunks captivated his high school crowd. Part of that jumping ability comes from his father, who first dunked a ball when he was in eighth grade. The rest comes from Adams’ work ethic - countless hours of leg press, jumping rope and swimming.

Adams’ high school success failed to draw attention from college recruiters. Some of that can be attributed to COVID-19 restrictions, but he suspects that his stature didn’t measure up.

“People were always telling me I can’t, always counting me out because of my height,” Adams said. “If you tell me I can’t do something I’m going to show you I can do it just to prove you wrong.”

While he was overlooked by Division I programs, he did hold offers from a few Division II programs and JUCOs.

Adams originally planned to commit to Davenport University, a D-II school in Grand Rapids, Mich. But with the pandemic creating concern, he decided to stay close to home with his family. He instead chose Ohio Dominican University, a D-II school 10 minutes from his house that came on late to recruit him.

In fear of potentially testing positive for COVID – leading to missing games and losing his first year of eligibility – Adams opted out early in the season. A month later, the NCAA released a rule to allow its student-athletes the opportunity to regain that year of eligibility. Unfortunately for Adams, he had already signed his opt-out paper work and was unable to return to ODU. After a few coaching shake ups in the offseason, Adams felt disconnected from the team and chose not to return altogether.

“Man, if things didn’t happen the way it did at ODU for ‘Vell,’ I feel as if us both there would have been the best thing that happened to ODU, especially as the duo we came up about,” said Marcus Johnson, Adams’ best friend since fourth grade and member of the ODU basketball team. “I feel like us both would have changed not only the culture at ODU but also made them contenders later on in play.”

It then boiled down to the JUCO route. His first choice was Columbus State Community College, where Adams’ old AAU coach worked. He ran into another roadblock – because of the pandemic, the school canceled athletics.

Then an old friend, Mikey Yates, told Adams about Hocking College and explained to him the nature of the program. Yates convinced Adams it was the best fit. The connection was made with Hocking coach Ryan Miley, and after Adams visited campus, he wanted in.

Next challenge: Miley didn’t give Adams a roster spot. He had to earn his way, along with the 90 others who were trying out.

“In the beginning… we had open gyms every day at certain times, and we had conditioning,” Adams said. “Having to be on time for that and be on time for lift, and they say no partying on certain days, no smoking, no drinking is what knocked a lot of guys off at the beginning. And some guys started to second guess themselves when they saw the talent level… Coach Miley told me (a roster spot) was in my favor, but I had to work for it.”

Working for it has never been a problem for Adams. His production on the court and honing his skills on the court is only part of his success.

He has also developed friendships and relationships off the court. Whether it’s using his fashion design and retail (his major) prowess to tell his girlfriend she looks great (which, by the way, he will always say she does) or getting asked to leave a Walmart because teammate James Moore air balled a shot on one of the hoops in the store, Hocking College has produced the types of friendships and memories that comes with the college experience.

(Photo credit: Trevell Adams. Further credit for knowing when not to be in front of a camera.)

Adams has also proven himself in the classroom with a 3.95 GPA. His academic success combined with the basketball skill set is attracting recruiters. He has offers from six schools, many of them D-II, and recently visited West Virginia State. Adams, though, has a bigger goal.

“Division I is one of my biggest dreams,” he said. “It’s not just because I wanna be seen, I really don’t care about being in the spotlight. I just want to do it because I really just wanna see what the hype is about. Why is it that this is the ultimate thing and nothing else?”

Trevell Adams succeeded by blazing his own trail. He hasn’t let anything get between him and his goals, not even an unfortunate act of violence, and he continues to strive to reach new heights. He called his own number, he rolled the dice, he bet on himself – and that’s exactly what has set him apart from others.

“The thing that separates him from a lot of people is just him knowing who and what it is he needs and wants in life,” Marcus Johnson said of his best friend. “He has always been different. From the shoes he buys, all the way to the people he surrounds himself with. What separates him is his work ethic on and off the court. From being a gym rat, to being a 4.0 student, he is a true definition of a leader who others should follow.”

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