Brian VanderBeek

Oliver now Plays a Waiting Game

Modesto Christian graduate Adrian Oliver, left, will look to revive his college basketball career with San Jose State after transferring from Washington.
Modesto Christian graduate Adrian Oliver, left, will look to revive his college basketball career with San Jose State after transferring from Washington. AP

There is a giant calendar in the mind of Adrian Oliver.

At the end of each day, the former Modesto Christian High all-state basketball player takes a jumbo red pen and crosses out the date.

Tonight, the term of his self-imposed captivity will be reduced to 343 days.

He already knows the date he'll be free again to play college basketball. It's Dec. 17, and if San Jose State has a game that night, it will mark Oliver's debut with the Spartans.

"That's a year away," Oliver said Monday, following a day of meeting with academic advisors and registering for classes. "Already, I haven't played in a game in two months and I never go a day without playing. But I can be patient and focus on getting stronger and better."

This will be a year of healing for Oliver, who cited nagging injuries and the desire to be closer to home when he asked for his release last month from his scholarship commitment at Washington.

By NCAA rules, Oliver can't play until the end of the fall 2008 semester. He transfers as a second-semester sophomore, making him eligible to play through the end of the 2009-10 basketball season.

Those same rules prohibit anyone at San Jose State from discussing Oliver until he attends his first class. The spring semester begins Jan. 23, and Oliver has his 14-credit schedule in hand.

Monday, Oliver sounded comfortable with his status and decision. It was a definite uptick from his mood the day his transfer was announced.

"I'm at ease with everything," Oliver said. "When I was at Washington, I was still very much uneasy because I wasn't sure where I was going to go."

There was a school in mind, however, and when Oliver said Dec. 4 he planned to transfer to a school that had a chance to win the national championship, he wasn't talking about San Jose State.

"I can't say which school that was, but there were some things that came up at that other school to help me make my decision," said Oliver, adding he did receive a scholarship offer from Cal.

He declined to elaborate but said his decision came down to the positives he saw in the San Jose State program, and not any negatives from the other schools in the running.

Among those positives are coach George Nessman, whose aggressive running game suits Oliver's preferred style of play, and starting freshman point guard Justin Graham, a Ripon High graduate and Oliver's former teammate with the AAU Oakland Soldiers.

"I played some of my best basketball ever with the Soldiers when Justin was the starting point guard and I was the shooting guard," Oliver said. "I made first-team all-tournament at the Las Vegas Big-Time Tournament, and it was because of Justin. He knows when and how I like to get the ball.

"But the major factor in me going to San Jose State was Coach Nessman and that I played with or against five or six of those guys already."

Another factor was being close to home.

"Anybody who knows me knows how close I am to my family, and that's something I really missed in Washington," he said. "They're very happy about this, and I'm glad to be back around the people in my inner circle."

Choosing San Jose State over Cal means a change in Oliver's short-term goals. Barring a miracle of Hoosiers proportion, the Spartans will not compete for a national title but a Western Athletic Conference crown. On the other hand, Oliver's long-term goals remain.

"We have a plan set up, and I'll be going to NBA camps this summer in the Bay Area," Oliver said. "It's starting to get to the point where I can focus a lot more on my future. I can do that at San Jose, and while I'm here I believe I can really help this team."

He trains at night, staying in shape while strengthening the muscles around the herniated disk in his lower back. That's an old man's injury, but Oliver, 19, has been playing basketball nearly non-stop since he was 3.

"Everything is fine," Oliver said. "I go through ups and downs with my back. I get back spasms from time to time that put me down for a minute. It means I have to warm up for 25 minutes before every workout, even before stretching, and that I have to ice down after every workout to stay healthy.

"That's not going to stop me. I'll do what I have to do. I'm as focused as I've ever been because I know there's a great possibility that I can make a living at basketball. I'm driven to help San Jose, and I'm driven to help Coach Nessman."

For now, however, the only game action Oliver is seeing is his personal waiting game. He'll play one today and another tomorrow.

And only 342 more after that.

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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