FROM SCHOOLYARD LEGEND TO KID ON THE RUN : RICHIE ADAMS, EX-UNLV STAR AND AN NBA PROSPECT, NOW HIDES OUT FROM DRUG DEALERS.
Byline: Lizette Alvarez and Vincent M. Mallozzi The New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Times
Richie Adams sat in the stands at Madison Square Garden
Current arenas in the National Hockey League
Western Conference Eastern Conference three weeks ago with the bill of his baseball cap pulled low over his face, his eyes darting back and forth as the New York Knicks and his buddy Larry Johnson scrambled across the court.
He wasn't hiding from his fans that day, the people who might have remembered him as a star basketball center, a jaw-dropping leaper with tireless legs who played for Jerry Tarkanian Jerry Tarkanian (born August 8 1930), also known as "Tark the Shark", is a former college basketball coach known for colorful behavior, including habitually chewing on a towel during games, and for his public criticisms of and clashes with the NCAA. and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas during the early 1980s.
Instead, Adams said, he was ducking drug-running killers who were tailing him around town, accusing him of murdering a teen-age girl.
``I'm on the run,'' Adams, who admits using cocaine and hanging out with neighborhood gangsters, said after the game. ``I can't go home because drug dealers there want to kill me.''
Six days later, Adams, 33, was arrested and charged in the killing of Norma Rodriguez, a 14-year-old girl who was found dead Oct. 15 in the Melrose section of the Bronx, one floor below Adams' mother's apartment. She had been bludgeoned to death near the elevator. A bloody Adidas sneaker, size 13-1/2, was found just outside the building.
Adams turned himself in Oct. 23 and pleaded not guilty to murder the next day. Family and friends of Ms. Rodriguez, who lived across the street, said Adams had been stalking her.
Adams' tumble from pro prospect to suspect in a gruesome killing was slow and incremental and, to his coaches and teammates, heart-breaking. Adams, they say, did not miss just one opportunity to play with the Johnsons and Jordans of the NBA NBA
1. National Basketball Association
2. National Boxing Association
NBA (US) n abbr (= National Basketball Association) → Basketball-Dachverband (= . He missed a string of them.
There was an offer from the Washington Bullets, international league contracts, a casino job in Las Vegas Las Vegas (läs vā`gəs), city (1990 pop. 258,295), seat of Clark co., S Nev.; inc. 1911. It is the largest city in Nevada and the center of one of the fastest-growing urban areas in the United States. , and the pleas and affection of his UNLV UNLV University of Nevada, Las Vegas coach, Tarkanian.
``Everybody in Las Vegas loved him, but every time he went back to New York he got in trouble,'' said his coach, Tarkanian, holding back tears. ``We tried real hard to get him not to go back to New York.''
New York, though, was Adams' haven. On the streets of Harlem and the South Bronx, he understood instinctively what to say and when to say it. It didn't matter that he couldn't read or write well.
What mattered was his prowess on the court, and in the end, the steady supply of cocaine and easy adulation ad·u·la·tion
Excessive flattery or admiration.
[Middle English adulacioun, from Old French, from Latin ad it brought him, friends say. Despite the streetwise street·wise
Having the shrewd awareness, experience, and resourcefulness needed for survival in a difficult, often dangerous urban environment. veneer, Adams was also a man more malleable than tough, a willing follower who never considered taking a lead position off the court.
``When he was around good people, he did the right thing,'' said Danny Tarkanian, the coach's son and Adams' friend and former teammate. ``When he was around the wrong crowd, he messed up.''
On the hardwood, Adams seemed to float above it all. He was gifted, a 6-foot-9-inch player who was nimble on his feet and rebounded with confidence and precision.
In New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City
City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S. , his size and agility turned him into one of the most sought-after summer tournament players. The Animal, people called him. In Las Vegas, his talent made him a celebrity.
In each of his last two seasons at UNLV, in which the Runnin' Rebels finished with a combined record of 57-10, he was the conference player of the year. He finished his college career with 1,168 points and 623 rebounds. Some say that in his prime, Adams could have outrebounded Dennis Rodman.
In 1985, he made the ultimate leap, becoming a fourth-round draft pick for the Washington Bullets. The day after the draft he was arrested for stealing a car in the Bronx. It was the beginning of his free fall.
``Richie was a great player,'' said Tarkanian, who was ultimately forced out of UNLV amid controversy and a feud with the university president. He is now head coach at California State University Enrollment
``What made him such a special person,'' Tarkanian said, ``is that despite his greatness, he was never cocky or self-assuming. He never boasted about the things he accomplished on the basketball court.
``He was one of the quickest jumpers I have ever seen. He was like a pogo stick, he was so quick off of his feet, and he could jump just as high the second time as he did the first, and just as high the third time as he had jumped the second.''
Adams was at his best from 1981 to 1984, while he was at UNLV. He warmed to his teammates quickly and worked hard on the court. Toward the end of his career there, he was always the first to volunteer to speak to elementary-school children about staying off drugs and graduating from high school, advice Adams never took to heart.
At one Rebel party honoring the players' parents, Adams brought seven local children as his guests. During his off time, he took children no taller than his kneecaps to the 7-Eleven for Slurpees.
``He loved talking to Noun 1. talking to - a lengthy rebuke; "a good lecture was my father's idea of discipline"; "the teacher gave him a talking to"
rebuke, reprehension, reprimand, reproof, reproval - an act or expression of criticism and censure; "he had to the kids,'' said Paul Brozovich, a former teammate. ``And the kids really loved him.''
But Adams, who had not yet learned to read or write at 14, could not shake off the lure of New York City's streets. At times, he so missed hanging out with his ``get-high'' buddies in New York that he isolated himself from the team. Coaches and teammates thought he was manic-depressive.
Adams was convinced he just needed to go home, and he did that, when his grandmother died, taking a year off in 1982 before returning to play for the next two seasons.
That year, Adams ambled around his gritty neighborhood in high style, a star admired even by rich drug dealers. It was a feeling he had always coveted cov·et
v. cov·et·ed, cov·et·ing, cov·ets
1. To feel blameworthy desire for (that which is another's). See Synonyms at envy.
2. To wish for longingly. See Synonyms at desire. , one he first tasted in 1978 as a hotshot player on the top-ranked Benjamin Franklin High School Franklin High School may refer to:
``He never wanted to leave his neighborhood,'' said a Franklin High School teammate and lifelong friend, Gary Springer, who now lives in North Carolina North Carolina, state in the SE United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), South Carolina and Georgia (S), Tennessee (W), and Virginia (N). Facts and Figures
Area, 52,586 sq mi (136,198 sq km). Pop. . ``He was just a street kid like the rest of us.''
From an early age, Adams had a penchant for trouble. The people around him chalked it up to poor upbringing, simple-mindedness and dangerous friendships, but they held out hope that his talent would prevail. At school, he was a truant with a reputation for using drugs and stealing, said Stan Dinner, a former basketball coach for Franklin High, now closed, who recruited Adams.
``Every now and then, he would shock you by doing something stupid,'' Dinner said. ``He would get caught stealing For meanings outside baseball, see .
In baseball, a runner is charged, and the fielders involved are credited, with a time caught stealing when the runner attempts to advance or lead off from one base to another without the ball being batted and then is tagged out by a fielder apples from the cafeteria when all he had to do was ask for them.''
Dinner recalls picking up the phone in his office one afternoon and hearing a police officer tell him Adams was in custody. ``Richie had stolen my car,'' Dinner said. ``He went on a joy ride. Of course, I dropped the charges.''
At home, after he left UNLV and squandered squan·der
tr.v. squan·dered, squan·der·ing, squan·ders
1. To spend wastefully or extravagantly; dissipate. See Synonyms at waste.
2. his shot at the NBA by being arrested, Adams sought refuge on the asphalt playground courts of Holcombe Rucker Holcombe Rucker (1926-1965) was a playground director for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation in Harlem from 1948 to 1964. He founded the New York City pro-am basketball tournament that still bears his name, and is the namesake of a world-famous basketball court in Memorial Park in Harlem, where the city's best players face off every summer in a brash and brazen display of skill.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar For the football player, see .
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. on April 16, 1947) is a retired American professional basketball player and current assistant coach. , Wilt Chamberlain Wilton Norman "Wilt" Chamberlain (August 21, 1936–October 12, 1999), nicknamed Wilt the Stilt and The Big Dipper, was an American professional National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player for the Philadelphia / San Francisco Warriors, the and Stephon Marbury Stephon Xavier Marbury (born February 20, 1977 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American professional basketball player, currently playing point guard with the New York Knicks. Marbury was an NBA All-Star in 2001 and 2003 and an All-NBA Third Team member in 2003. were among the best who made it. Many more did not, like Joe Hammond, dubbed the Destroyer; Herman (the Helicopter) Knowings, and Earl Manigault, called the Goat, who dunked a ball backward 36 times in a row to win a $60 bet.
The Rucker League summer tournaments, which have no official sponsors, also earned a reputation for bending the rules, and sometimes the law, former players and coaches say. High stakes gambling High Stakes Gambling is a Game Boy game that takes place during the 1930s. A brave gambler must turn the Mafia from filthy rich to dirt poor in a series of gambling games in order to arrest them. Games includes are blackjack, poker, and slot machines. on games, under-the-table payments to players and team sponsorship by drug dealers are not uncommon. It is no secret that the best players are paid well for these ultracompetitive tournaments. Victory at Rucker Park is a matter of honor "A Matter of Honor" is the eighth episode of the second season of first broadcast on February 6, 1989. It is episode #34, production #134. The teleplay was written by Burton Armus, based on a story by Wanda M. Haigh, Gregory W. Amos and Burton Armus. It was directed by Rob Bowman. to drug dealers.
``There is definitely a drug element in the Rucker League, and a few teams are run by drug dealers who are looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. their own fame,'' said James Ryan, who has coached Adams in summer tournaments since he was a teen-ager. ``They love saying, `I have Richie Adams on my team.' ''
Adams found he could make a comfortable living playing in local tournaments.
``A lot of basketball teams I play for in different tournaments are run by drug dealers who pay me to play for them,'' he said after a recent Knicks game. The dealers, he said, often dropped him off at home at the Andrew Jackson Houses in a gleaming Mercedes-Benz or Lexus. He had a steady paycheck and his ego was being stroked. He was needed on the court.
``In his prime, Richie made a ton of money playing in the summer leagues,'' said Lenzell Vaughn, who played with Adams in tournaments and was known as the Predator on the court. ``People would do anything to have him play for them. They would buy him clothes, sneakers sneakers
US, Canad, Austral & NZ canvas shoes with rubber soles
sneakers npl (US) → zapatos mpl de lona; zapatillas fpl and even food, if he was hungry.''
But Adams, who Ryan said was probably making $1,000 a game during his best years, spent most of his money on drugs, especially cocaine, friends said. Even after he fathered two children with different women, he kept draining his wallet to get high, they said. Not even the drug dealers approved, Ryan said.
``Of course it was drug money he was being paid, but no one told him to buy drugs with it,'' Ryan said. ``Heck, if these dealers wanted to see Richie get high, they would have paid him in drugs, not cash, because that would have been a lot cheaper. Believe me, no drug dealer, especially the ones who bet big money on some of those games, would want to see one of their players show up high.''
When his money ran out, Adams turned to crime. Between 1988 and 1989, he was convicted three times. He snatched two purses and held up a woman at an automated teller machine automated teller machine (ATM), device used by bank customers to process account transactions. Typically, a user inserts into the ATM a special plastic card that is encoded with information on a magnetic strip. , placing a gun to her jaw. In April 1989, Adams was sent to an upstate prison, where he played ball behind barbed wire barbed wire, wire composed of two zinc-coated steel strands twisted together and having barbs spaced regularly along them. The need for barbed wire arose in the 19th cent. as shotgun-toting guards watched.
Through it all, his teammates and coaches tried to help him see past the easy money. Tarkanian sent him airline tickets to Las Vegas. Adams cashed them in. He lined up a job for Adams at a casino, a route many former UNLV players take when they graduate, but Adams ignored the offer.
After Adams was sent to prison, Tarkanian and his son, Danny, tried unsuccessfully to get the governor of Nevada to permit him to enter a work-release program in Las Vegas. Teammates and friends encouraged him to play basketball abroad, and he did, briefly, in Argentina, but New York never failed to tug him home.
``Playing in those summer tournaments in Harlem,'' said Dinner, Adams' former high school coach who now owns a restaurant, ``Richie was a legend here in New York, and that's one of the reasons why he always wanted to go back. It was a safe, comfortable place for him.''
When he got out of prison in April 1994, Adams returned to his mother's apartment in the Bronx. People in the neighborhood pulled for him once again.
``There was a lot of love out here for him, but he just went back to it,'' said James Howard, who grew up in the same projects and remembers when Adams came home.
Eventually, it became common knowledge in his building at 3050 Park Avenue that little had changed. Adams still used drugs, friends said. He was still unemployed.
But one thing was different: his game. No longer a young man with a marquee name, Adams was paid considerably less for his time on the court. Fewer games came his way. Neighbors said he again turned to stealing to finance his habit, sometimes in his own building. The crimes were not reported, they said, because residents were afraid.
``People stayed clear of him,'' Howard said. ``He was a smooth operator. He never stayed long here.''
His basketball buddies also noticed that he had taken another downward turn. ``I was aware that Richie had drug problems,'' Vaughn said. ``He'd show up before games and say, `I'm so tired.' He was real dragging and his eyes looked so droopy droop
v. drooped, droop·ing, droops
1. To bend or hang downward: "His mouth drooped sadly, pulled down, no doubt, by the plump weight of his jowls" . I knew right there he was getting high.''
Dinner remembers Adams coming into his restaurant last year. ``He looked horrible,'' Dinner said. ``His hair was matted and his clothes did not look fresh. I gave him an order of chicken wings and a bottle of beer. He said, `Coach, can you spot me a few bucks?' ''
Still, the people who know him best said they are astonished a·ston·ish
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise. that Adams, a man never seen fighting, not even after taking an intentional elbow to the face on the court, could have committed murder. Most said they never heard him mention Norma Rodriguez, the girl he is charged with killing. As for the size 13-1/2 sneaker found nearby, Adams says he wears a size 15.
``I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. if Richie did this,'' Dinner added, ``but anything is possible. Drugs do strange things to people, and Richie is a very strong guy. What a shame. What a waste. Here's a guy who really had a chance to go places.''
Photo: Jerry Tarkanian