Before he became a rebounding machine and Final Four participant for UConn, and before he became a Golden State Warrior, Jeff Adrien was just a soft-spoken kid from Brookline trying to hold his own against the older kids on the Boylston Street courts. Adrien helped lead Brookline High through one of its most dominant eras in school history, including two Division 1 state final apperances, before taking a post-graduate year at Brewster Academy and then making a storied career at Connecticut. When he left Storrs in 2009, he was just the second player in the Jim Calhoun era to record 1,600 points and 1,100 rebounds for his career.
After a year overseas in the Spanish Liga Espanola, Adrien hooked on with the Orlando Magic in this year's summer league, and received preseason camp invites from several NBA squads. Last night, Adrien finally settled on Golden State over offers from several other teams, including Memphis, Minnesota and his hometown Boston Celtics.
This afternoon, Adrien was cruising through the campus of Curry College looking for a place to get in a workout (both gyms were closed to the public). He sat down with ESPNBoston.com for a few minutes to chat about getting a chance to make the show, Brookline head coach Mark Fiedor's legendary brick drills, his humbling high school teammates, and the many great eateries in the city of Brookline.
Q: Take us through last night, when you decided to take the Warriors' preseason invite.
A: "Well, I already knew they wanted me to come, it was just a matter of waiting on the right situation and making sure it was the right situation before I put my stamp on it. But when I finally said 'let's do it', my agent (Aaron Mintz) called me up and said 'I think this is the right spot', I trust what my agent says. I kinda did my own research too, and thought it was a good spot.
"I was in a daze, kinda. It took me a couple minutes to realize it, then it hit me. My agent is like, 'You OK? You alright? You sound down'. I said, 'No, I'm good, I'm just so happy right now that I can’t even show emotion!'"
Q: What time last night was the decision made?
A: "I can tell you, let me look through my phone…(he looks)…9:11…how about that for a time, huh? There were offers from the Celtics, Memphis, Minnesota a few other teams. It was just weighing my options, really."
Q: What gave the Warriors the edge over, say, the Celtics? You obviously grew up rooting for Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce.
A: "Well, it's about really making it, you know. I felt like with the Celtics, they're stacked over there, but it wouldn't be the right situation for me. Right now it's a business thing, and you've got to do what's best for you. I thought that was the best decision for me."
Q: Where did you hone your skills growing up?
A: "Right in Brookline, right on Boylston Street, the park outside, playing against the older guys, getting beat up. I remember Stanley Dauphin, Jerry DuVerne, Barry Golden, these were guys that were older and bigger than me at the time, and they really, really helped me out."
Q: Anyone in the pros you looked up to?
A: "Of course, Michael Jordan, then he was gone. Then Penny Hardaway, but he kinda fell off. Then it was Tracy McGrady. But definitely Mike, no doubt."
Q: What kind of lessons did you learn from Mark Fiedor that you still hold with you now?
A: "Coach Fiedor, I've learned so much, he was basically a father figure for me. He's like a father to me. Just growing up, just maturing as a man, he taught me skills on and off the court. It was just a great person to have around. I remember my freshman year, he was the JV coach, and I couldn't see myself playing for anybody else in high school. He already started teaching me stuff, and I was kinda young and immature and did a lot of stupid things, but he really took me in and helped me out -- in the classroom, and like I said, on and off the court."
Q: Any mottos of his that still run through your head?
A: "Not as much as I remember practice. We used to have the bricks. He'd have us hold bricks during practice, that was the first time I'd ever done that. No other coach that I'd ever played for even heard about having bricks. At Connecticut, we did have weights, but with coach Fiedor that was the first time I'd ever seen that kinda stuff. He used it for defense, probably got it from Rick Pitino, who coached him at BU. Holding your hands out, Indiana slides -- left-right, left-right. Very intense."
Q: Who was the toughest guy you played against in high school?
A: "That’s a good question…I have no idea. Andray Blatche was pretty tough up at Brewster, he plays for the Wizards now. In high school, I'd have to give it to my teammates. Sophomore year, those guys used to go at me. I was the youngest at 15, that whole senior class just, they all went after me -- Clayton Barlow-Wilcox, Justin Powell, Tim Jones, they just took it to me. I had to be tough. I could have folded, ask them to put me on JV so I could be with my friends, but I stayed with it.
Q: Do you regret not coming away with a state title? (The Warriors lost twice in the state finals in Adrien’s time, to Springfield Cathedral in 2002 and Springfield Commerce in 2004)
A: "You can't regret it. We definitely had the opportunities, two chances. I was just thinking about that the other day, coming so close but kinda so far at the same time. It was a great experience, I loved every second of it, especially senior year, the guys telling us we weren’t good enough, that we didn’t have as good guard play as we did in the past at Brookline. And to go out there and just prove them wrong, we changed the way we played basketball really. You could almost say we started four four’s on the floor with a point guard. It was good, it was fun, I enjoyed it."
Q: If I’m looking for the best game in the Boston area, where do I go?
A: "Washington Park (in Roxbury), everybody goes there and loves it. A couple weeks ago, up at Madison Park High School, the gym was pretty packed. And for me personally, I have to give it to Boylston. That’s where I'd probably be, probably not playing anymore but definitely watching guys play basketball right where I grew up right on Route 9 in Brookline."
Q: There’s tons of great places to eat around Brookline. What was your spot?
A: "Definitely Village Fare, I used to order a steak & cheese and chicken wings almost every night. My mom would be working, she'd give me like eight dollars, and I'd order it almost every night. Then, you know, when I was able to get around in Brookline, there was, you know, Anna's Taqueria, stuff like that."
Q: No Cleveland Circle, huh?
A: "Oh, excuse me, Pino's! (laughs) Definitely after basketball games, Pino’s Pizza right in Cleveland Circle. Sicilian pizza, all day."
Q: When you look at the whole body of work, from freshman year at Brookline to Golden State now, is it a bit surreal?
A: "Yeah, it is. Like I said, when I got the call, it was really breathtaking, I really had no emotions. I was like, wow, I’m one step closer to making my dream come true. It shows…just going there, so far it just shows I’ve come a long way just to have invites from other teams. And to finally commit to one, it’s like, hey, this guy came a long way, you know, to his dream and his goal – the ultimate goal."