In one manner of speaking, you can say that Adam Paige can’t wait to write the next chapter of his basketball story.
Yet in another, it’s not a stretch to say that by getting a chance to play professionally in the midst of his university career with the Alberta Golden Bears, that the 6-foot-8 Semiahmoo Totems grad Paige has stepped up his development to the point where perhaps he’s actually skipping a chapter or two.
On Wednesday, the Fraser Valley Bandits of the Canadian Elite Basketball League announced that Paige, the Golden Bears rising third-year leader, was one of three draft selections it had made as part of the CEBL’s annual U SPORTS draft.
The Surrey native will be joined this summer on the Bandits’ roster by 6-foot-4 Grant Audu, the rising fourth-year UBC Thunderbirds’ guard/forward from Toronto, and Anthony Tsegakele, the 6-foot-6 rising second-year forward with the Brandon Bobcats via Gatineau, Que., who distinguished himself as one of U Sports’ top rebounders in 2019-20.
“It’s awesome because traditionally, most play at university for five years and then head to a pro setting at 23, but for me, getting a chance to jump right in while I’m still younger, it’s going to help my career blossom,” Paige, 21, explained.
“I think as a place to learn, I am going to get as much information as I can,” continued Paige. “But I’ve kept up with the (CEBL) the last two years and I know that a bunch of U SPORTS players have been impactful. So for me, it’s not just being on the sidelines. It’s a big opportunity, if things go my way, to play some meaningful minutes. Playing against those guys then coming back to my university team will be a big growth opportunity for myself.”
Trace Paige back to the 2019-20 season, and on the eve of the global pandemic’s outbreak, you saw a second-year player answering bells at every turn for head coach Barnaby Craddock’s Golden Bears.
Having lost leading scorer Brody Clarke to a broken foot early in the campaign, Paige needed to grow up fast… and he did.
Now, with a lost U SPORTS season barely in the rearview mirror and a pro opportunity awaiting him this summer in Abbotsford, he’s getting ready to shift back into high gear.
“I didn’t happen the way I would have wanted,” he begins of the cancelled 2020-21 Canada West season, “but having that extra redshirt, in my circumstance, might have been beneficial. It was a good time to reflect on my weaknesses, and now, with four guys having graduated, I feel like my skills are more ready to be a main focal point on the team.”
Indeed, with Clarke (19.7 ppg), Ivan Ikomey (12.9), Andre Kelly (10.6) and Dwan Williams (9.5) having all departed from the 19-1 Golden Bears team which lost to UBC in the conference final, Paige is one of just two returning double-figure scorers. He’s also Alberta’s returning leader scorer (12.9 ppg), and the returning leader in both takes and makes from the field and beyond the arc.
Best defined as a stretch-four owing to his capabilities as both a shooter and an interior presence, Paige spent his redshirt season deepening his cache of skills, especially his handle.
The past two years I was more of a catch-and-shoot but coming in this season, I want to create my own shot off the dribble,” Paige begins. “I want to show attacking moves but also keep providing the post game.”
Of course there is his three-point shot as well.
Over his most recent 2019-20 campaign, as he gained more and more familiarity with main rotation minutes, Paige’s numbers shone.
Over the first half of the season, he shot the long ball at 34.4 per cent (11-of-32), but over the second half, the splash came at an eye-popping 46.3 per cent (19-of-41).
All of this of course, while doubling down in the paint and just generally affecting things at every part of the court.
Ask his old high school coach what he’s seen from one of his prized pupils (from a list that includes UBC’s Brian Wallack and Trinity Western’s Vlad Mihaila), and Ed Lefurgy is quick to respond.
“He is the perfect 4,” Lefurgy says. “He’s a 40 percent guy from three-point range, he can play point guard for you for a few moments, he rebounds the heck out of the ball and defensively, he’s so good that you have to keep him on the floor. What got him on the floor was his defence and rebounding. What keeps him there is his shooting. He is a modern offensive talent.”
Lefurgy and others at Semiahmoo will never forget the presence Paige brought to the Totems’ program over his final two years of high school, where he starred on the school’s basketball and volleyball teams.
In fact Lefurgy loves to speak of the precise timing Paige paid to his multi-sport development, taking the best of both worlds through high school, then dropping one sport for total focus on the other just as he entered the more specialized air of a university gymnasium.
“Adam is a great example of a multi-sport gamer,” Lefurgy begins. “He thinks so quickly on his feet and he’s so coachable. He’s also taken something important from every coach he’s worked with and applied it. So when he became a single-sport athlete, his game and his focus took a huge leap. I think (Alberta head coach) Barnaby (Craddock) was fortunate because he got Adam right when his game was starting to grow immensely.”
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