San Jose State is home to Adrian Oliver, the nation’s sixth-leading scorer who garnered the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s national player of the week honor last month.
That Oliver would reach those heights seemed unlikely as of two seasons ago when he abruptly transferred from Washington. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound junior guard showed signs of stardom last year, but was bothered by foot and knee injuries.
This year, Oliver has burned defenses for 22.5 points per game to lead the WAC in scoring and has the Spartans (12-12) in position to record their first winning season since 1994.
DL: Last month you scored a career-high 39 points against Louisiana Tech. What does being in the zone feel like?
AO: It’s really hard to explain. It’s something you start feeling. The rim gets really big, and no one on the court can really guard you. You try to make the most of it. It’s kind of special.
I don’t like how it shows at our gym; it shows players points. People know you’re one point away (from 40). I’d much rather have the win.
DL: You chose to transfer to San Jose State from Washington, but what did you know about the school coming out of high school?
AO: Absolutely nothing. I knew nothing about the school. When I came back home, I thought about my friend, Justin Graham, and how he came here. It’s a school right next to my home (in Modesto). I just knew San Jose was the capital of the Silicon Valley. It’s what I call the other half of the Bay Area. I just found out a couple days ago it’s one of the biggest cities in the state.
DL: When you arrived at San Jose State, was there a culture on the team that needed to be changed?
AO: It was obvious. That’s all about Coach (George) Nessman. He knows the big picture. He knew it wasn’t going to change overnight. He had to bring his guys in. There’s no riff-raff on the team. We all have the same goal.
The biggest thing he’s taught me is to be patient. Since I’ve been here, I’ve had to watch more film, find ways to get open. He just teaches me the small things, the angles, and cutting hard. Small things that may make all the difference.
DL: How bad did the Dawg Pack get on you when San Jose State went to play Washington earlier this season?
AO: I expected worse. I figured a lot of them didn’t really know me. A lot of the Dawg Pack probably graduated and moved on. It’s still the Dawg Pack. I remember when it was a little bit louder. Nothing against these ones. I was hoping for worse. I respected the crowd for giving me a standing ovation after the game.
DL: I understand you still keep in touch with Lorenzo Romar. How often do you talk?
AO: Even though he’s not my coach anymore, he’s still one of my friends. He was my mentor right out of high school. He’s the person I went to to learn how to learn how to be a man. We shoot text messages to each other. Last year, he came to one of my games when he was in the Bay Area.
DL: Your recruiting class at Washington included Spencer Hawes and Quincy Pondexter. Do you ever wonder what if you all had stayed together?
AO: Sometimes you wonder, but not much. It feels like so long ago. People ask me that all the time, but it’s like what if any good recruiting class had stayed together? That’s highly unlikely. Yeah, I came in with all those guys. We could have done some great things.
DL: Is it possible you’ll put your name in the draft after the season?
AO: I’m not really trying to think about it. I’m just really trying to worry about getting the team to a place it hasn’t gotten to before. No matter what you hear, what the media is saying, it’s about us. Any award I get goes to you guys.