Not short on talent

The Baltimore Sun

Corin Adams glides across the court like a magician waiting to perform her next sleight-of-hand trick on an unsuspecting opponent.

Here's the ball, there's that delicious, slow-motion crossover dribble. Gotcha.

There she goes, racing down the floor, ball out front. Oops, there it went - around her back. An easy two.

Adams, a 5-foot-5 sophomore point guard for the Morgan State women's basketball team, keeps fans and opposing players on their toes. She has a portfolio of moves - an effective drop step, a devilish double pump and that nasty crossover - that's unsettling for any defender, no matter the size.

Size is relative at Morgan State, where Adams isn't even the shortest player in the Bears' backcourt. That would be junior Tamara Rogers, Adams' 5-2 sidekick who shops in children's stores for clothes, browsing both the girls' and boys' departments.

"My shoe size is a little boys 4 1/2 ," Rogers says. "I wear extra-large boys shirts and little girls' extra large. But I can fit in the junior section [clothes]. I'm a 3-4 in juniors. They're just making those kids' clothes too big."

Make no mistake, though. The shortest backcourt in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference can beat you coming and going, with and without the ball.

Adams, better known as Tiny, is the heart of Morgan State's offense. Rogers is the soul of the defense. Together, they helped a team that lost four seniors match last season's 18-win total, the most in school history at Division I. Until Saturday's loss at Delaware State, the Bears (18-10, 10-5) were riding a seven-game winning streak, the longest in 26 years.

In just his third season, coach Don Beasley has stamped his imprint on the women's program with quick guards and relentless defense. The team is second in the MEAC to North Carolina A&T; in steals with 374, or 13.4 per game.

Adams, 19, is third in the conference in scoring (17.2 points per game), first in assists (4.2) and third in the nation in steals (4.1). She's got game.

It came from the Brooklyn, N.Y., playgrounds, where she grew up playing on and against boys teams from the time she was 9. She didn't play against girls until she got to James Madison High School, and by then, Adams had already patterned her game after the guys.

She quickly learned to adjust to her lack of height.

"I got my shot blocked a lot, so I had to learn moves," Adams explained. "If I go against a boy and don't double-pump, he's going to block my shot. Yes, I'm 5-5, and he's 6 feet, but so what? I'm going to score. I had to learn other moves to compensate for the inches I didn't grow."

More than that, she learned to distribute the ball. The game she learned on the Brooklyn playgrounds dealt more with making the flashy pass than the nice basket.

"She has ability you can't teach," Beasley said. "Her ball-handling skills come from the playground. I can't teach anybody to handle the ball like she does. ... The sad part is, I had to convince her that she's a great shooter. She's the best three-point shooter we have."

Said Adams: "When I first got here, I'd rather cross somebody and throw a pass behind my back than shoot it. After two weeks, I had to change that, because we weren't making the layups."

Adams, who almost went to Syracuse, has career highs of 27 points and 12 rebounds. She achieved a triple double in November against North Carolina Central: 11 points, 10 assists and 11 steals.

Her steals have been prolific, but Adams insists she's not a good one-on-one defender. The trick, she said, is watching how Rogers breaks down the opposing point guard and anticipating the pass.

Beasley agrees that Rogers is the better defender and creates havoc with her quickness.

"I feel like I'm going to put so much pressure on the guard," said Rogers, who led Milford Mill to a state title and St. Frances to a Catholic League title in high school. "We feed off Tiny offensively. Defensively, we feed off me."

Like Adams, Rogers, 20, grew up playing against boys on the playgrounds when she was not even 4 feet tall. After high school, she played for a national junior college championship team at Odessa (Texas) College, and went to Morgan State because her mother and greatest basketball influence, Sylvia Rogers, graduated from Morgan.

"In my basement at home, my mother would try to back me down and show me how to play defense against a big girl," Rogers said. "She'd say, 'All the girls are going to be bigger than you all the time, so you've got to learn how to [guard] a big girl.'"

Her size, Rogers says, has never really been a problem. Adams, on the other hand, wouldn't let it become one.

"Overall, I think I'm a good player," Adams said. "I think I've got a higher basketball IQ. And I think that's from me playing against the boys so much."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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