WNBA Champion Jessica Adair perseveres with “tough elegance” forged at Anacostia High School
Jessica Adair has come a long from battling her twin sister, Jazmine, one-on-one everyday at the asphalt basketball courts behind Charles Hart Middle School on Mississippi Avenue SE. Last month, Adair was instrumental in helping the Minnesota Lynx defeat the Atlanta Dream to win their first WNBA Championship before a national broadcast audience.
Before her freshmen year at Anacostia Senior High School, Adair, already 6 feet tall, was playing a summer league game at Jelleff Boys & Girls Club off Wisconsin Avenue. “She grabbed a rebound above the rim and I saw the potential,” says Coach Frank Briscoe, who has been a surrogate father for Adair and her twin sister.
Under Briscoe, the Adair twins, Jessica with her finesse and Jazmine with her aggressiveness, became a dominating inside presence at Anacostia. Although, a DCIAA championship evaded them twice, they were recruited by the top women’s college basketball programs in the country. Committed to staying together, they decided to attend George Washington University.
While at GWU, Jessica was a three-time All-Atlantic Ten First Team Selection and made two NCAA tournament appearances. After graduating in 2009, she was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury in the 3rd round of the WNBA Draft. Less than two months later, four days before training camp began, Jessica was waived.
Out of basketball, she stayed in DC and worked for a non-profit while working out and playing pick-up games on the side. Unexpectedly, she received a call from Joe McKeown, her coach for her first three years at GWU, with an offer to help her get a second chance at the WNBA. McKeown had given the coach of the Minnesota Lynx her first professional coaching job and asked her to giver Adair a shot.
On April 22, 2010 Adair joined the Minnesota Lynx’s training camp roster. Less than three weeks later she was, again, waived. Cheryl Reeve, the Lynx’s coach, had a message, “You never know when the call is going to come so stay on top of it,” remembers Adair. “The call came and I was ready.”
While at GWU, Adair, who stands 6’4, was susceptible to chicken tenders and fries from the popular Wingos. As a senior her playing weight was 270. To contend in the WNBA she would have to lose weight. With a change in diet and strenuous training sessions, Adair dropped nearly 40 pounds.
Three days after signing a contract with the Lynx, on August 22, 2010, she made her WNBA debut against the Indiana Fever with 5 points and 8 rebounds. The Lynx did not make the playoffs, but Adair received an opportunity to play overseas where many WNBA players go during the offseason.
Last winter, Adair played for Samsun in the Women’s Turkish League. In 25 games, she averaged 14.4 points and 10.3 rebounds. She plans to return to Turkey this winter where she enjoys “learning about new cultures.”
After flourishing abroad, Adair was again invited to the Lynx’s training camp. Now just over 200 pounds, Adair competed for a roster spot and made the team as the back-up center. Throughout the season she did the dirty work – boxing out on defense, grabbing offensive rebounds, blocking shots – and slowly moved up the depth chart. Coach Reeve told The Star Tribune, ”And the reason that happened is she plays so hard and plays with so much energy. Teammates love playing with her.”
On August 18, Adair made her homecoming as the Lynx defeated the Mystics at the Verizon Center. She grabbed 2 offensive rebounds and had 6 points in twelve minutes. “We talked after the game,” says Coach Briscoe. “It was like watching your child play at the highest level. There’s no greater feeling.”
“Growing up in DC and playing for Coach Briscoe impacted my game,” says Adair, “by making me tough with a bit of elegance. I like to call it aggression in its most elegant form.”
The Lynx finished the season as the best team in the Western Conference and made the playoffs for the first time in seven years. In 31 regular season games, Adair averaged more than 4 points and nearly 3 rebounds.
In the playoffs she stepped up as the Lynx coasted into the Finals. In game 2 of the Finals, Adair had her best game with 13 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 blocks. The Lynx won in a three game sweep.
“Winning a championship is a dream come true,” Adair said. “I’ve been working so hard to get it for years. The feeling is indescribable,”
“Washington, DC has innateness,” says Coach Briscoe. “Once someone goes to the next level they become the pride of Washington, DC. Jessica persevered and did it the right way.”