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How Jayda Adams Plans To Emerge From Two Tremendous Shadows

Jayda Adams made the most of her limited opportunities last year at powerhouse Mater Dei. Now she's ready to take on a larger role. Doug James/Icon Sportswire

For years, the Adams family enjoyed camping trips that included scary storytelling in the California woods.

Jayda Adams and about a dozen of her siblings and cousins would sit around a campfire while adults held their nervous attention with spooky tales of terror.

"My dad [Jerrald] and uncle would tell us that bogey monsters were watching us in the woods," Adams said. "There was no light except for the fire. They would take us for hikes and then hide behind the bushes and scare us."

Adams no is longer terrified of the bogey monster.

What's now scary is her potential now that she is emerging out of the shadows of her sister, Jordan Adams, who plays for USC, and former Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California) teammate Katie Lou Samuelson, who will play for Connecticut this season.

The first step in Adams' emergence happened on May 26, when USA Basketball announced that she and 11 other girls made the under-16 national team.

That's quite an accomplishment for Adams, considering there were 149 girls competing for roster spots. Adams, a 5-foot-11 guard who will be a junior this fall, made the team even though she was just the fourth option last season.

Given her relatively low profile at Mater Dei, Adams was not among the players USA Basketball invited to the tryout camp. Thus, Adams' family had to pay her way there, which came out to well over $1,500 with airfare, hotel, rental car and other costs.

"Jayda bet on herself," Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan said.

Adams and 6-2 forward Lauryn Miller of Kirkwood (Missouri) were the only non-invited players to make the roster.

"They wanted team players," said Adams, 16, when asked how she made the squad. "I did what the coaches were asking for: I played the defense I know how to play, I was very verbal and I ran the three sets they put in, getting everyone involved."

Adams, who left for Team USA's training camp in Colorado on Sunday, hopes her sticky defense and impressive shooting will spark the Americans once they arrive in Puebla, Mexico, for the FIBA Americas U16 Championship next week.

Following Jordan

Adams will feel the pressure in Mexico because her sister, Jordan, already has won three gold medals with Team USA -- U16 in 2009, U17 in 2010 and U19 in 2011.

Jordan Adams, a 6-1 point guard who has been compared to a female version of Magic Johnson because of her size, skill and charisma, led USC in assists as a redshirt sophomore last season and averaged 7.3 points and 5.2 rebounds.

Jayda has dealt with the comparisons to her sister for years.

"It was frustrating, especially when I was younger," Jayda said. "People would say, 'Oh, you're Jordan's little sister.' Then I would tell them my name, and they would still call me 'Jordan's little sister.'

"[Eventually] I took it as a compliment because Jordan is such a great player. ... I think people are starting to realize that I'm a different player. Even my sister has told me: 'Go make a name for yourself.'"

Jayda grew up following in her big sister's sneakers. She saw the trophies and accolades Jordan was getting, and she wanted in on the fun.

AAU coach Brian Crichlow of West Coast Premier met Jayda when she was 8. Jordan was already in Crichlow's program, and there was Jayda, so skinny that her uniform looked more like a gown, according to her mother, Tausha.

"From day one, Jayda always had a basketball in her hands -- she wanted to be better than her sister," Crichlow said. "She had this too-big uniform on -- knee pads and the whole nine.

"Jayda has big feet and a skinny body. I told her that when she started to grow into those feet, she would be OK."

Following Katie Lou

Even with those big feet, Adams, who wears size 12½, has huge shoes to fill this coming season at Mater Dei.

Kiernan hopes his team can band together to match the production provided by Samuelson, a 6-3 wing who averaged 30 points and was named the Gatorade national player of the year. Although Jayda's averages were much more modest last season -- 3.4 points and 3.6 rebounds -- it was still a triumph for her to start every game for an immensely talented Mater Dei team that went all the way to the CIF Open Division state final before losing to Saint Mary's (Stockton). The Monarchs finished the season ranked No. 5 in the espnW 25 Power Rankings.

"We didn't run any stuff for Jayda last season," Kiernan said. "She had to get it on her own -- and she did that very effectively.

"This year, we will run a lot of stuff for her."

Samuelson said she is proud of Adams.

"Jayda has started to develop into a great player," Samuelson said. "She didn't have much of an opportunity to be a scorer last season, but her defense and hustle made her valuable.

"She's a great shooter and all-around player. She's going to continue to get better and shock people."

Jayda's father, Jerrald, said last season was frustrating for his daughter, who is the middle child of three siblings.

"Jayda is a shooter -- I've seen her hit nine 3-pointers in a game," Jerrald said. "You never have to tell her to practice her shooting. She takes 1,000 shots a day. She can shoot the NBA 3s easily."

Given her abilities, it's not a surprise she wanted the ball more last season, even as she understood that the offense revolved around Samuelson.

"There would be times that Jayda would be wide-open," Jerrald said. "[Samuelson] would have two or three players on her, and Jayda would yell: 'I'm open! Pass the ball!' But the ball would still go to Samuelson."

Jayda was more diplomatic about her sophomore season.

"It was a great experience playing with Katie Lou," Jayda said. "She plays smart, and I learned how she comes off screens and makes things happen. She knocks down shots.

"But at the same time, it was frustrating because I know I could get the same shots and make them. I had to get over it and play so we could win."

Spoken like the attorney Jayda someday hopes to become.

Her father said Jayda is excellent at "pleading her case," and Crichlow said her mouth is always moving.

"If she's not talking," Crichlow said, "she's not in the room."

Jayda said it would be "pretty cool if one day I could play in the WNBA and then say, 'By the way, I'm a lawyer, too.'"

Just which university will help educate this future barrister has not yet been determined -- she is "wide-open." But know this: Her father believes Jayda will not follow Jordan to USC.

"She wants to make her own identity," Jerrald said.