When Adrian Oliver received a phone call in 2007 that his grandparents were ill, he knew he had to transfer from the University of Washington to a Bay Area school to support them.
“Up in Seattle, I was like, ‘I don’t care about basketball anymore, I just want to be with my family,” the SJSU star says.
Oliver’s says his grandparents were instrumental in raising him, after his father left the family when he was 7 years old.
“Growing up without a father, my mom would have to work nights, and I would have to go to my grandparents house,” he recalls. “My grandma is like my second mom, and my grandfather is my father. I don’t call him grandpa, I call him dad. They mean everything to me.”
By transferring to SJSU, Oliver was forced to sit out for a year by NCAA rule. During that time, his grandparents made a full recovery. He says he learned to never take the game of basketball for granted.
“When that is taken away, you really put things into perspective, knowing if and when you come back you want to work extra hard,” he says.
Since debuting for SJSU in December 2008, Oliver has become one of the deadliest guards in the Western Athletic Conference. Fueled by his conference-leading 22.5 points per game average last season, the WAC media voted Oliver as preseason conference player of the year.
“His ability to score is just unusual,” head coach George Nessman says. “He can score in many different facets of the game and in many different places on the floor.”
Oliver, a Modesto native, says he didn’t know San Jose State existed until a day before he visited the school when he was looking to transfer.
“When I did come here for my visit, sitting in the stands, I said, ‘Do I really want to come here?’ Being from Washington, there was 10,000 per game. I turned to my cousin and said, ‘I want to come here. I have a vision. I want to be a part of the reason why this program’s changed.’”
Oliver says the presence of longtime friend Justin Graham as the Spartans point guard also factored in to his decision to come to SJSU.
“Even in second grade I knew he was going to be good,” Graham says. “Playing against older kids, you could tell. He’s gotten better every single year.”
Although the state of SJSU basketball is on the rise, Oliver says he has to yet to fulfill his legacy.
“I want to be the best player who’s ever played here, and take a team to the NCAA Tournament,” he says. “I just want to win, like badly. It’s always on my mind.”
But win or lose, at every home game, Oliver can expect his grandparents to be in attendance, supporting their grandson.
“It gives them their biggest joy, to watch their grandson play basketball,” he says. “That was taken away from them when I left for Seattle, and now that I’m back, I just see them much more lively and energetic.”