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Another Great Article From Tim McMahon


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Awasom prowls for hoops rings

01/09/2003

By Tim MacMahon / Staff Writer

Adrian Awasom sends a message to his North Texas basketball teammates with his middle finger, though there is nothing profane about the manner in which he does it.

DRC/Al Key

Adrian Awasom, a defensive end on the UNT football team, makes the transition to power forward for the basketball team when he steps inside the Super Pit.

The part-time power forward sports a pair of Sun Belt championship rings on his right hand. He displays his reward for playing defensive end on the 2001 football conference title team on his ring finger. He decorates his index finger with a track and field championship ring, earned by finishing third in the discus in his only meet of last spring to help UNT win the outdoor men’s crown.

One can’t help but notice the absence of jewelry on his middle finger, especially since it’s about the size of a Lincoln log.

"That’s where the basketball one will go," said Awasom, who apparently has picked out another digit for the Sun Belt and New Orleans Bowl championship ring he earned in the fall. "That’s why there’s a gap in the middle."

The 6-5, 275-pound sophomore gives the Mean Green much-needed muscle in the paint, even more so than he did when he played limited minutes last season. Awasom, who added 25 pounds of muscle last summer, has switched from No. 15 to No. 35 this season because he outgrew his previous basketball jersey.

Awasom joined the team a couple days after Christmas and was rushed into playing significant minutes earlier than expected because of injuries to centers Will Smith and Justin Barnett. Smith will be sidelined at least another week by an infection in his foot, and Barnett has battled back pain all season.

Though he had minimal practice time, Awasom was a key factor in UNT’s double-overtime victory at Florida International in the league opener, when he played a career-high 26 minutes.

His stat line — two points and four rebounds — wasn’t spectacular. But Awasom provided a physical presence and played dominating defense, helping force Florida International star Eulis Baez into his worst shooting game of the season. He also came up with the biggest rebound of the game, ripping the ball away from two Golden Panthers under their basket with nine seconds remaining in the final overtime.

"It’s too early to dictate exactly what his role on this team is," UNT coach Johnny Jones said. "But I like his start. From what he was able to accomplish over the weekend, he’s definitely going to get looked at."

Awasom isn’t quite as brute on the basketball court as he is on the football field, where he made eight sacks this season for the nation’s third-ranked scoring defense and was named second-team All-Sun Belt.

"It’s not a loose-cannon physical presence like it was last year," said UNT assistant coach Charlie Leonard, noting that Awasom picked up only two fouls in those 26 minutes. "He’s a little more purposeful with the way that he uses his body."

But Awasom definitely doesn’t back away from contact. In fact, he verbally invites opposing big men to bang with him. He’s pleasantly surprised by how often his challenge is accepted.

"The big dude did last game — and he got hurt," said Awasom. He’s referring to 6-10 Florida International center Belco Bamba, who injured his hip in a collision with Awasom under the boards just before halftime and did not return to the game.

Jones summoned Awasom off the bench after Bamba scored a couple of easy baskets in the first few minutes of the game. Bamba didn’t score again from the floor.

Awasom’s defensive strategy is simple: He doesn’t allow the man he is guarding to get comfortable. Awasom understands that he is always at a height disadvantage, so he meets his man with a firm forearm and doesn’t allow him to get to his favorite spots on the floor.

"That 6-footer becomes a 10-footer, which lowers your field-goal percentage opportunity," said Leonard, who works with UNT’s post players. "For big guys who have limited range, if you can get them to 10 or 12 feet, that’s an advantage."

Added Awasom: "It’s just getting them out of their rhythm. They want to get to the block, but I’m not going to let them get there to do their move. It’s being physical with them, but it’s outsmarting them, too."

Awasom is still catching up with the changes the Mean Green has made in its playbook since last season, so his impact offensively has been mostly limited to setting some pretty powerful picks.

But Awasom isn’t shy to let it fly when he has a wide-open shot. He showed as much on his lone field goal against Florida International, a 16-footer that he took with UNT trailing by three with less than six minutes remaining in regulation. The Mean Green was in transition at the time, and star swingman Chris Davis was open on the wing.

"If he would have missed, I wouldn’t have said nothing," Davis said with a laugh. "I’d have just got back on defense. I don’t want to make him mad at me."

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"The big dude did last game — and he got hurt," said Awasom. He’s referring to 6-10 Florida International center Belco Bamba, who injured his hip in a collision with Awasom under the boards just before halftime and did not return to the game.

Jones summoned Awasom off the bench after Bamba scored a couple of easy baskets in the first few minutes of the game. Bamba didn’t score again from the floor.

You've got to love that attitude. This is just a classic quote! laugh.gif

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But Awasom isn’t shy to let it fly when he has a wide-open shot. He showed as much on his lone field goal against Florida International, a 16-footer that he took with UNT trailing by three with less than six minutes remaining in regulation. The Mean Green was in transition at the time, and star swingman Chris Davis was open on the wing.

"If he would have missed, I wouldn’t have said nothing," Davis said with a laugh. "I’d have just got back on defense. I don’t want to make him mad at me."

Chris Davis must be graduating with honors! Smart man laugh.gif

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The very first game Awasom suited up was December 29, 2001 against New Mexico State. He had only practiced a couple of days and did not get into the game. New Mexico State's Chris Jackson was having a great time butting , shoving and pushing NT's post men out of his way. During one of Jackson's runs, coach Jones walked over to where Awasom was sitting, and talked to him for about a minute while pointing in the general direction of Jackson. There is little doubt that Awasom was being told what his role on the team would be. We thought Awasom was going into the game right then, but it didn't happen. He needed more time to learn the plays and defenses.

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