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Originally published Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 8:01 PM

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Rainier Beach star Anrio Adams making good on second chance

Anrio Adams wants to be known as a team leader, and is learning to be that for Rainier Beach after leaving Franklin last year.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Mike Bethea knew he needed to prod his star player's playful side.

The Rainier Beach High School basketball coach sensed it as soon as he saw Anrio Adams walk into Monday's practice wearing a blue cardigan over a white T-shirt, jeans and Air Force Ones.

Several players and an assistant coach stopped talking about the recent NBA All-Star game to tease the 6-foot-3 guard. They let him know he was late. The state quarterfinals were only a few days away.

The senior pointed to the clock on his phone. He knew he had a few minutes to spare. As he walked to the bleachers, Bethea wrapped him in a headlock.

The coach wrestled Adams to the ground. They stood up, laughing. At that moment, Adams said he was "back on balance" with his coach.

"He was in one of his little playful moods," Bethea said. "Whenever he does that, we're going to wrestle. It's kind of a thing to break the ice with him. Right after that he was cool, smiling. He was ready to go."

The laughter lingered the rest of practice.

This is the person Adams strives to be, a playful playmaker teammates look to as a leader. This is the player Bethea thought Adams could become, an 18-year-old earning his second chance. This is the prospect the Kansas coaching staff is counting on, a deft scorer whose maturity must match his impressive physical gifts.

"Growth is everywhere and it has to happen every year," said Adams, who will lead the third-ranked Vikings into the quarterfinals against No. 5 Mountlake Terrace at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Tacoma Dome. "It doesn't have to be personality-wise or attitude-wise, it's something that just happens. I think I've got a long way to go and everybody else knows that as well. I'm just working as time progresses."

There was a time Adams' future was uncertain. The oldest of three children raised by a single mother, Raysean Wright, basketball provided many of his male role models. As a freshman at Franklin, he helped Peyton Siva and the Quakers win a state title. As a sophomore he was the team's leading scorer. But as a junior, he was kicked off the team early in the season.

"I definitely gave the coaches the feeling that I didn't want to be there," said Adams, who, looking back, said he would have handled things differently, though he still doesn't quite understand what happened. "I definitely gave them that vibe."

He wanted to transfer to South Kent School in Connecticut, but the timing didn't work academically. He transferred to Garfield and finished the school year before spending the summer taking classes and working out at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J.

He felt he had left things unfinished in Seattle.

"I felt like I needed to prove a lot of people wrong, so I came back," said Adams, who lost almost a full season of basketball.

He ended up at Rainier Beach.

"You saw a kid who wanted, asked for and needed a second chance," Bethea said. "Not from a basketball aspect of things, just to redeem his character. Word had gotten out that he had some character issues. He just wanted a chance to be able to show people that wasn't the real him."

He has shown flashes of brilliance on the court. With broad shoulders, long arms, big hands and thick calves, he has a body type and skill set that draw comparisons to Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade. Local coaches say he is as talented as any player they've seen, right up there with NBA guards Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford, former stars at Rainier Beach.

Long Beach Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer called Adams "a monster" after the Jackrabbits edged the Vikings in the King Holiday Hoopfest in January.

"He's great," teammate Marquis Davis said. "That's all I can say."

One question remains: When will his maturity match his talent?

"There isn't a kid more talented in the country," Bethea said. "But, you know what, man, we're just working on the neck-up part with him. I think he can do it."

Off the floor, Adams is engaging and well-spoken, but he is still learning lessons. Bethea has had to kick him out of practice and, after losing to O'Dea, Adams kicked the ball in frustration. It almost hit one of the Irish assistant coaches.

"It was out of anger and I shouldn't have done it," Adams said. "I can't run away from everything. Things aren't always going to go my way. I've got to accept some of the things that are in front of me and deal with them. That's what I've been doing."

When he talks about things that aren't comfortable, he maintains eye contact. He owns his mistakes with the confidence he carries on the court. Those who know him best see the growth. They understand how far he has come.

"From the time that I've known him, I feel that he's grown a lot, just as far as his maturity level and understanding how to receive constructive criticism," said Adam Sedlik, an AAU coach with Seattle Rotary who has worked with Adams for years. "He still has a ways to go. He's maturing, but he still has some things to work on, just like everybody does."

Adams has the word "loyalty" tattooed on one wrist. A tattoo on the other wrist reads "honesty." The ink serves as a reminder of what he has come through, who he is and where he is headed. When he peeled back a padded sleeve on his left arm, he revealed two jester masks — "Laugh now, cry later" — tattooed on the inside of his arm.

"You never know when it's your time to go on this earth, so you try to leave the best impression you can," Adams said.

He has other tattoos — the names of his sisters, Talia and Kiera, a few others with his favorite number, five, and a scripture that reminds him of his grandmother. That one is faded and blurred.

"I need to get it touched up," he said.

Asked about the future, Adams talked about an interest in business and law, but he is intrigued by fashion. He soaks up his style sense through music videos, making sure he picked up a pair of Levi's 501 jeans — a shout out to rapper Wiz Khalifa.

"He's got everybody wearing them," Adams said.

After sitting down for an interview, he rejoined his teammates, who were huddled around Bethea. He slid headfirst across the floor, flopped into a sitting position and focused his attention on his coach.

"It's right there for us, fellas," Bethea said. "How bad do you want it?"

Bethea was talking about a state title, but he could have been talking about Adams' future. As far as he has come, it is up to him to write his own ending.

"If he figures it out, he's going to be a pretty special player," Bethea said.

How bad does he want it?

Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or mkelley@seattletimes.com

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