BOONVILLE — Andre Adkins is a good illustration of what a person can achieve with some hard work.
The Adirondack Central senior forward basketball player once was a kid who only came off the bench to give the starters a breather, and not too much more.
He was shy, quiet and certainly not a player that the team could look to in a pinch to drain a big shot or carry the team to victory.
How times have changed.
Wildcats longtime coach Nick Palczak remembers those days from his bashful player, but now cannot think about going into a game without Adkins, who is leading the team in scoring, rebounding, steals, and is a major reason as to why these ‘Cats are clawing at trying to win a Section III Class B title as they prepare to open the first-round of the postseason tonight on their home floor against No. 10 seed Ilion.
The seventh-ranked Wildcats finished the regular season at 11-7 overall.
Palczak said that Adkins was just a raw talent when he first came to him in the ninth grade, but now has really come into his own this season while developing into a team leader.
"He was a ninth-grader who didn’t play a lick on JVs," Palczak recalls. "He came from the bottom of the list on the JV team, to a league all-star," he said. "It’s been a lot of hard work for him and gaining of his confidence. He’s probably the best athlete in the school. He’s a state-ranked pole vaulter (top ten in the state last year), and really learned how to use this athletic ability just by gaining confidence. He’s come to be a real confident, athletic player," added Palczak.
As their first-round sectional game begins tonight, it’s fitting that it was these same playoffs last season that Adkins began his surge at the varsity level. He averaged only six points per game in a limited play during the regular season before he averaged a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds per game in their two postseason games.
Adkins big varsity break out game was in the sectional semifinals against Mount Markham, a game that the Wildcats lost 56-53, but not because of a lack of effort from Adkins, who went for eight points, 11 rebounds and two steals, and had his first varsity slam dunk in a game.
"That really started him on to start the season that he is having right now. Just something clicked to where he found out what he had athletically to where he could dominate games if he wanted to because of his athleticism," Palczak said.
Athleticism that has carried over into this season.
"I started off strong this year, my defense has always been there but I’m just trying to get better and help my team get wins," Adkins said.
"I feel good about myself, because I didn’t hear that I was a leader very often before this season, so it makes me feel good about myself and it feels good to be a leader," added Adkins.
"For me, it was all about confidence. The more confidence that I have, the better I play. I used to miss a few baskets and shut down I think, but now I know that it’s not a big deal, just keep going to make the next one," he added. "What ever I have to do to get the win I’ll do it."
Adkins has scored a team-high 246 points for an average of just under 14 per game while shooting just a shade under 50 percent from the field. He also has 146 rebounds, an average of 8.6 per game, and is averaging four steals.
"He has been the leading scorer in every game but two, leading rebounder in every game but one, and he came from not being in the mix as a ninth-grader is really a tremendous turn around. I use him as an example to our younger kids. Three years of hard work and growing up really does pay off. I tell them, ‘Just look at Andre,’" Palczak said.
Adkins, the son of Robin McLean of Point Rock Road in Taberg, said that it was as if a switch turned on for him one day, and the game started to really come to him more naturally. He said that the strong support from his family and classmates has helped him to get to where he is today.
"I just always worked hard in practice and continue to work harder on and off the court," Adkins said.
The senior leader said that these playoffs will probably be the last few competitive basketball games that he will be partaking in, but said that this team has some unfinished business before he leaves Adirondack.
"It would mean the world to me to win sectionals because this might be my last time of playing basketball. I don’t think I’m going to do it in college," said Adkins, who is leaning towards going to SUNY Delhi to study architectural management.
"It will be my whole high school and probably life of playing. I’ll never forget it, I’ll tell you that much," he added.
Palczak sounds like a proud coach describing his star player.
"He was reserved and didn’t have any confidence, but now he is a kid who has a plan in life," he said.
"He’s going to college, he wants to pole vault in college, and has developed into a mature student. He’s got a great personality. He’s come a long way from a shy kid to a person who is ready to conquer the world."
Palczak added that aside from the glaring offensive statistics that his senior leader has for the team this season, it has been Adkins’ defense that has helped lead the Wildcats to their winning record. He said Adkins doesn’t care about his individual stats at the end of the night as long as the team wins games.
"I’d rather have no points in a game and get a win, than 50 points and get a loss," Adkins said. "I take more pride in defense because it’s a lot harder to do. If a team can’t run their offense it makes me feel better and we don’t have to score as much in order to win," he added.
Calling him "a one man press all by himself", Coach Palczak credited his ability to run the team’s 1-3-1 zone defense that will carry the team as far as they can go in the sectional playoffs. "He has very quick hands, he anticipates well, and he’s able to get steals at the top of that zone. Our offense and defense really runs through him," added Palczak. "I’ve never had a player quite like him," added the 12th year Wildcats head coach.
Even if Adkins and the Wildcats don’t accomplish their goal of bringing a sectional title to the high school, Adkins will still leave a lasting message to though who will come up after him.
"Just keep your head up and keep working hard, because you never know how good you are just by the way that you are playing now. Work hard and see where you can go," he said.