A Wink ... And A Smile

3/10/2009 - UNLV Rebels
Wink Adams has been a relevation in all aspects for Lon Kruger and the Rebels. Getty Images

UNLV's first game in the Mountain West Tournament is Thursday, March 12 against San Diego State.

Nike may want to consider putting UNLV senior Jo'Van "Wink" Adams' mother on its payroll.

While Reandre Adams never could afford to put her son in the brand's hottest sneakers—it was Payless shoes for her children—the "Just Do It" advertising campaign drove her to succeed as a single parent. She heard "Just Do It" in finding the energy to work three jobs (Wal-Mart, a barber shop and McDonald's), always put aside time to shoot with her youngest on the playground and try her best to raise two boys without the presence of a male role model.

"That was a motivator to me," said Reandre, who is known as "Mama Wink" around her Houston neighborhood. "Never give up. Just Do It. I did it."

Wink, who was originally tagged "Winky" for having one eye open and one closed in all his baby pictures, is a testament to that. He's put together a strong career, highlighted by a great year. Currently he averages 13.9 points, 4.2 reounds and a hair under 3 assists per game for the Rebels, who at 21-9, and at 5th in the Mountain West, need a strong showing at the Mountain West Tournament this week to qualify for the NCAAs. Adams has been a big reason for the good year, but credits his mother for all his achievements.

"From her, I learned anything is possible," said Adams, who is fifth all-time in UNLV career scoring and third in steals and three-pointers made. "She's been my backbone. To this day, I can't thank her enough. She was a single parent, just me and my brother. She played the mother and father role. I got my basketball skills from her."

The college choice was his own. Most kids growing up in Houston don't dream of playing for UNLV, but Adams did. It was a vision he had from an early age. Mother and son, both hoops-a-holics, were sitting around watching Larry Johnson and the Runnin' Rebels in 1991 when Adams, then five, predicted he'd someday be wearing that same uniform. Twelve years later, the Rebels came knocking.

"He ran around the house screaming 'Mama, mama, close your eyes,'" Reandre said. "I was scared; I didn't know what was wrong. When I opened my eyes, he had that UNLV letter. Oh, man, it broke me down. I cried, I cried. His dream came true."

Adam's constant love for what would become a slightly above-average program certainly made UNLV coach Lon Kruger's job easier.

"It was great to learn that he had an interest in UNLV for quite some time," Kruger said. "He was one of our first highly-rated recruits. He's had such a great career. Not many people have done better at UNLV, especially in the past few decades."

From his beginning at UNLV, Adams lived up to his label. Showing a knack for scoring and defending as a six-foot combo guard, he was plugged into Kruger's starting lineup midway through his freshman year. From there, he started in 105 consecutive games and only had that streak snapped this season due to an abdominal injury.

That freakish injury—there was no contact, he simply spun in the lane—was nothing compared to the hit he suffered on the football field as a high school sophomore. In retrospect, it was probably a blessing. Adams had always considered the NFL as a dream, something he took from a big brother who was into football, but those thoughts changed in a flash. Or at least in a hit.

"This dude was probably 6-4 and 260-something," Adams said. The hit didn't knock Adams out, or leave him in bad shape physically, but it was jarring. It was more like an epiphany. "When I got up, I thought, 'I just got to stick to basketball.' I can thank him for picking basketball."

Considered by some scouts to be too small for the NBA, Wink is likely playing overseas after he earns his degree in May, though he'll try to dis-prove the "tweener" tag in front of NBA personnel if he lands at the NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando or the Portsmouth Invitational early this summer. In the U.S. or Europe, wherever the basketball checks comes from, a portion of it will end up in Houston with Mama Wink.

"Even now she asks me if I need anything, and I say no," Adams said. "Whatever I get in life, she's going to have some. I can't thank her enough and pay her back, but I can try and I can try to make it as best I can."