Gotta have heart for this award

More than a hundred kids, most of them small, went to Coach Randy Peele's Winthrop University basketball camp this week. They sprawled on the floor for loose balls, sweated and hustled and did their best.

When they won, they cheered and jumped for joy. And when they lost, they shook hands and played harder the next time.

Just like Winthrop player De'Andre Adams, the small, hustling, smiling bundle of excitement who died in May after a car wreck in his hometown of Atlanta.

At the end of the camp Thursday afternoon, Peele gave out the De'Andre Adams Sportsmanship Award like he had the two previous camp terms earlier this summer. He announced the name Clay King.

Nine-year-old Clay King, who is maybe 4 1/2 feet tall, glowed like he had won a million dollars. He floated. The star Winthrop players rubbed his head. A gymnasium filled with kids and their parents clapped. Just for him. All for the little guy who did what De'Andre Adams always did.

Clay King said De'Andre was "awesome." His dad, Bob, who saw Winthrop play so many times, said "De'Andre, he had a big ol' heart." He, too, said the smallest player at Winthrop was "awesome."

But those awards for campers in Adams' honor are just part of the legacy that Winthrop's hoops family wants for Adams.

The school is raising money to start a $25,000 endowed scholarship in Adams' name to be given to one basketball player each year. The money saved from giving a basketball player the Adams scholarship will be used for another athlete in any sport to get an education.

But only about 20 percent of the money needed has been raised. This is one of those ideas that sports people get that is about more than sports.

It is about family, and helping somebody else, year after year.

After Adams was injured, and then died, this community and the school rallied behind the Adamses. The outpouring was "tremendous," said his grandmother, Louise Adams-Short.

"Rock Hill and Winthrop helped us as a family get through this," she said.

On Aug. 28, there will be a community memorial service at the Winthrop Coliseum for Adams. His family will be there, and hopefully the student body, and these campers, and anybody else who wants to go.

John Adams, De'Andre's father, will be there. He said having his son's name live on is an honor.

John Adams knows more than a little bit about honor. After the ceremony Aug. 28, he will put on his desert fatigues again and leave his two surviving sons. John Adams is a master sergeant in the Marines, with 21 years of service. He went to Afghanistan already. Now he goes to Iraq.

He asks for nothing. He gives all. Just like his son.

De'Andre Adams was tiny by basketball player standards, at about 5 feet 7 inches tall. He was too small to play college ball on a scholarship, right?


"He never let his size hold him back," his grandmother said. "His legacy is that size doesn't matter."

Clay King, also not real tall, was named the most like Adams. Clay was the happiest kid in the gym, who pushed the crowd to clap with joy, just like Adams did every time he laced up a pair of sneakers.