Roosevelt Adams had a rocky start in his PBA journey, but the silver lining was that he overcame these early trials and now he's one of the five candidates for Outstanding Rookie for the league's 45th Season.
Adams was the first overall selection of the TerraFirma Dyip in the regular section of the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft. A lot of people were excited about the future of the Dyip as the talented rookie would be paired with 2019 Rookie of the Year CJ Perez.
The 6-foot-5 athlete struggled with his shot in his first two games, finishing with seven points on 3 of 11 shooting from the field in their debut against TNT Tropang Giga and then scoring 10 points on 3 of 10 shooting against Rain or Shine. However, he was solid in the rebounding department, averaging 7.5 in their first two games.
"I was still figuring out my role and what I need to do in the team and how to win games. I learned from the veterans in the team. They threw me at the four in the beginning and I did the best I could," admitted Adams.
"When they switched me to the guard position, I started producing more, at least in my eyes. We also started competing better, putting ourselves in position to try and win games in the end. Being at the four, the aggression out here is super physical."
Filipino basketball fans were already familiar with Adams even before his PBA debut as he played for Mighty Sports Philippines under coach Charles Tiu and also dipped his toes in the 3x3 circuit. He showed great talent as an athletic scorer and this is why a lot were surprised when he played at the power forward position. He might have the height but it was apparent that he did not have the heft of the strength to bang bodies with natural big men.
"I know that's one of my weaknesses sometimes. A lot of guys just love to lay one on you, especially with me being a rookie but I got used to it," Adams said. "My natural position is really on the wing and that's what coach Charles allowed me to play with Mighty."
The 26-year-old rookie had to endure the bumps and bruises, all just a part of his initiation in the PBA.
"I don't remember a specific instance that someone welcomed me to the PBA but it was hard just to box out the big guys every game. And my teammates were tough as well. I was trying to guard them everyday in practice and that was my introduction to the physicality of the league," he explained. "I also got to go up against guards and matching up against CJ was a big push for myself."
Adams ended up averaging 10.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.0 steals in nine games for the Dyip. He'll go up against Alaska's Barkley Ebona, Magnolia's Aris Dionisio, Barangay Ginebra's Arvin Tolentino, and Meralco's Aaron Black.
His top performance was a Best Player of the Game effort with 20 points and 16 rebounds against the Blackwater Elite. However, what hampers his chances will be the fact that TerraFirma finished last in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup with all the other four candidates' teams reaching the playoffs.
Still, Adams is taking the lessons he picked up from his first PBA season with him as he now has renewed respect for the level of competition.
"All aspects of the game from the guards to the forwards to the center, they got game out here. I tell people back in the States and they don't believe me but I dare them to just try and play here," he said. "There's a different atmosphere here and they know their game. I respect it a lot and a lot of people should too."
While there is still a possibility that 2020 rookies will be in the running to win the linear Rookie of the Year award for the PBA's 46th Season, Adams will surely be up against tough opposition and one of the top bets might even be his teammate.
Asked which of the players who have expressed interest in joining the draft he's looking forward to being teammates with, Adams mentioned three names.
"It'll be very special to reunite with Jeremiah (Gray) again. We go back a few years as we were teammates with Mighty Sports," Adams said.
This, however, might be a long shot as the PBA stood firm about its usual rookie requirements aside from the PBA D-League stints. Gray has yet to procure a recognition from the Bureau of Immigration and affirmation from the Department of Justice.
"Another guy would be Josh Munzon. He's a super scorer. I jell with him from 3x3. We've had many levels and I know he'll compete at a high level," Adams stated. "There's another dude named Jamie (Malonzo), the super high flyer, Mr. Highlight. He'll also compete at a high level."
TerraFirma will have the first pick overall for the third straight season in their upcoming draft as they'll be able to add another blue-chip talent alongside Adams and Perez.
"This draft, as people have been saying, has a lot of talent," he stated. "You can't go wrong with whoever you pick from the first round and the second round so whoever we pick, I hope they compete at a high level with us and contribute and stay positive with us in the journey."