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Although undrafted, UConn's Adrien continues to succeed

POSTED August 11, 2014
BY Patrick Tiscia
Twitter: @PatrickTiscia

Former Husky Jeff Adrien recently signed with the Houston Rockets. His journey to Houston has been one filled with patience and hard work, writes Patrick Tiscia.

UNCASVILLE – In the past 20 years, the UConn men’s basketball program has seen a staggering amount of its alumni selected in the NBA lottery.

A good portion of them were on hand Friday night at Jim Calhoun’s charity basketball game at Mohegan Sun Arena, including Donyell Marshall, Ray Allen, Kemba Walker, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Rudy Gay, Jeremy Lamb, and Andre Drummond.

Another former Husky in the building, Jeff Adrien, has gone on to find NBA success as well. His journey, though, has been far more difficult than those aforementioned greats.

Not only was Adrien bypassed in the lottery, he was not selected in the draft at all. Historically, non-draftees making an NBA roster is a long shot. Staying in the league for multiple seasons? Extremely rare.

But Adrien, who is ready to embark on his fifth NBA campaign after recently signing with the Houston Rockets, found a simple, yet hardly mastered formula to stay in the league – relentless hard work.

“I just keep fighting,” the 28-year old Brookline, Massachusetts native said Friday. “Nothing is given to anyone in this world, especially me. I keep fighting, am patient, and never stop working.”

At UConn, Adrien, a 6-foot-7 power forward, played four seasons, becoming the first Husky ever to collect 1,600 points and 1,100 rebounds. He helped lead the Huskies to the 2009 Final Four and also served as a captain.

If Adrien did stop fighting at any point since leaving UConn in 2009, it would've been easy to understand why.

He began his professional career in Spain, followed by a stint with the Golden State Warriors, the D-League’s Erie BayHawks and Rio Grande Valley Vipers, and back to the Warriors all within his first two seasons.

In 2011, he started the season in Italy before signing with the Rockets. That was followed by a stint in Russia and another trip to Rio Grande.

Adrien then was reunited with former UConn teammate Kemba Walker in Charlotte and played a season and a half with the Bobcats. In February of this year, he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, which proved to be vital for him in establishing an identity in the league.

He received his most substantial playing time yet as an NBA player, averaging 28 minutes a game in 25 contests with the Bucks. Adrien made the most of the chance, netting 10.9 points per game on 51 percent shooting, along with 7.8 rebounds.

“The trade was a blessing in disguise,” Adrien said. “It gave me a great opportunity and I’m looking to build on it in the future.”

The Rockets, looking for a backup for Dwight Howard, see Adrien as a high-energy, efficient rebounder. Head coach Kevin McHale is said to be a big proponent of Adrien’s potential around the basket.

“My previous time there definitely had an influence (in returning to Houston),” Adrien said. “I’m going to go there and give everything I have. Dwight is going to play 35 to 40 minutes a game. When I get the chance, I’m going to hit the paint and fight for every ball.

“It’s what I do best.”

And it’s why, five years later, he hasn’t gone away.

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