Adam Hall: Human Highlight Reel
Jan. 11, 2002
A packed University Hall crowd looked on as the Virginia men’s basketball team sought to overcome an 11-point second half deficit to N.C. State. After UVa had battled back to take the lead, but with the game still very much in doubt, guard Adam Hall got the ball on the left wing and took off, unimpeded, for the basket. Hall left his feet a few feet short of the goal, rotated his body a full 365 degrees, and dunked. The epic jam brought the crowd out of its seats, and made its way onto the highlight packages of sports shows across the country.
It is exactly this brand of aerial acrobatics that have made Hall a crowd favorite in his three-plus seasons in a Cavalier uniform. Whenever the senior gets the ball, chances are something special is going to happen. Despite his ability to stoke the fervor of over 8,000 rowdy fans, Hall maintains his most important and satisfying work takes place on the defensive end of the court.
“I take pride in my defense,” Hall says. “I hate people embarrassing me. When I get scored on, I really take it to heart. I just want to go out there and help my team win.”
While the high-flying dunks certainly do draw affection from a home crowd, it is Hall’s defense that has made him a feared presence among coaches and players in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He was chosen to the 2001 ACC All-Defensive team by the Atlantic Coast Writers Association, and was an honorable mention honoree in 2000. Hall was third on the team in steals last season with 34, including four in an 82-71 win over then 16th-ranked Wake Forest.
“Adam Hall had a terrific third year,” head coach Pete Gillen says. “He made the ACC All-Defensive Team, which is not easy to do. He sacrificed some of his offense to help us win. Adam can guard a point guard, a two-guard or a small forward on the perimeter. In a pinch, he can also guard a four-man.”
As a defensive menace, Hall has locked horns with some of the country’s most high-profile players. Last season, in Virginia’s thrilling 91-89 victory over then third-ranked Duke at University Hall, Hall blanketed Blue Devil All-America point guard Jason Williams. Hall hounded Williams into a 5-for-21 shooting performance from the field, and forced two turnovers from the sophomore. Hall also scored the winning basket on a lay-up with .9 seconds remaining in the game, and then stole the ensuing inbound pass to seal the victory.
It is up to Hall to infuse his team with the same type of defensive energy that characterizes his own game. According to the senior tri-captain, despite Virginia’s success during the 2000-01 campaign, the team had a tendency to lose its focus on the defensive end of the court. This season, Hall contends, the team must play tenacious defense for 40 minutes a night if the Cavaliers want to improve on their impressive showing from a year ago.
“This team has got to come out and play defense throughout the game,” Hall says. “We can’t take a five-minute break during the game and try to produce wins. We can’t take time off. Last year we took time off.
“We’ve got to come out there and play man-to-man defense throughout the game, and play hard. If we do that, our offense is going to come naturally.”
Hall’s position as one of three captains alongside fellow senior Chris Williams and junior Roger Mason, Jr., gives him a unique position to impart his wisdom to younger players. In fact, not only does Hall have the authority to speak, he will be expected to do so. The trio will be charged with making sure that the team’s younger players are ready to play night-in and night-out. When the situation demands it, Hall must gather his teammates together and make sure they are focused on a common goal.
“This year, the younger guys listen to the things I say,” Hall says. “It’s an important role that Chris, Roger and I have. We are the ones that talk the most on the team, and people listen to us. It is our responsibility to get the team going when we are down or something’s not going right. At a crucial point in the game, we know it is up to us to get the team to come together and play ball.”
With increased expectations and a schedule loaded with teams who will be trying to knock off the nationally-ranked Cavaliers, Hall’s position as a team leader takes on added significance. He must continue to push himself on the defensive end of the floor and give his team easy opportunities on the offensive end. If he can do this, and at the same time inspire defensive intensity from his teammates, the senior guard maintains it will be a successful season.
“If our team produces and we win, everything else will take care of itself,” Hall says. “I just want this team to come out and play very hard.”
So far so good for Hall and the Cavaliers. Virginia has played three games and gathered three comfortable wins, and Hall averaged 16.7 points a game through the first three contests.Hall has spent the better part of preseason practices and the first few games nursing a sore knee. Although the leg has not limited his playing time, the senior is reticent to soar the way he is accustomed to, fearing an injury could cost his team when ACC games roll around. For now, Hall is content to work hard on the glass and generate offensive opportunities without launching himself into orbit.
“Right now, early in the season, I’m not trying to do anything too crazy because I know we have 30 more games left and I don’t want to put that much strain on my leg, Hall says. “If I go out there and do all that crazy stuff and injure my leg even worse, I’m just going to affect the team in the long run.”
Cavalier fans shouldn’t plan on staying in their seats for long, however. With ACC play just over one month away, the gravity-defying acrobatics that have served as a signature of Hall’s game for his three-plus seasons in Charlottesville are likely just around the corner.