His off-court persona is all smiles, engaging friendliness and the polar opposite of intimidation. C’mon, the guy is a big Katy Perry fan.
“It goes back to the happy mood she’s got,” he said of liking the pop princess’s music. “The happy feeling, yeah. It’s like I just listen to it, get in the mood, get happy and just carry on with my day.”
That’s not the Adebayo Kentucky wants to see playing basketball this season. Opponents up until now haven’t seen that person. On the court, Katy Perry gives way to Medusa. Now, UK’s basketball camp hopes that pattern continues. After last season’s lack of an inside presence, the Big Blue Nation sees Adebayo as the man who will enforce UK’s sense of justice around the basket.
Perhaps not wanting to reduce his big man teammates to sidekicks, Adebayo seems reluctant to shoulder alone this be-the-man role.
“You got me, you got Isaac (Humphries),” he said. “We got Derek (Willis). We got Sacha (Killeya-Jones). We got Tai (Wynyard). So we got a whole bunch of front-court guys.”
When asked about being perceived as the sole answer to the problem that vexed Kentucky last season, Adebayo demurred.
“I mean, no pressure because I know I’ve always got my teammates’ backs,” he said, “and I know my teammates got my back. We’re all going to come together and we’re all going to fight. So it’s not just one centerpiece.”
Adebayo acknowledges this split personality: rough on the court, not so tough off the court.
“Well, on the court, you know, I smile a little bit,” he said. “But for the most part, I’m very serious. But I’ll joke around if we’re beating somebody by 70 or something. But other than that, off the court I’m the friendliest person ever. Goofy. I like to have fun.”
There’s a time and place for each Adebayo.
“It’s a mentality,” he said. “It’s just something that I’ve always (done). You’ve got to know how to turn it on and turn it off. I mean, it’s something I learned to turn on. Just go hard. Just be a motor. Be energetic. Get dunks. Make layups. Shoot shots. Have fun.”
Adebayo had to learn this balancing act. To borrow from the popular parlance of the moment, he was not a “beast” when he was younger.
“Yeah, that’s accurate,” he said. Times have changed. “I started getting in my head that, you know, my mom’s got to stop working sometime,” he said. “Sometime soon.”
While that one-and-done sentiment marinates, keep in mind that there can be a downside to a physical style of play. It can lead to foul trouble.
Adebayo sounded unconcerned.
“Just keeping my body under control,” he said the answer was. “When people drive, instead of jumping everywhere, you know, you stay stationary. You hope they miss, and you keep your hands high.”
Teammates calling fouls in preseason pickup games has helped temper the urge to get physical, Adebayo said.
UK Coach John Calipari has used the term “beast” to describe Adebayo’s playing style.
The nickname “Bam” evokes the idea of a banger bulling his way in an antique store.
But the nickname actually has a wholesome origin. As followers of recruiting know, it dates back to when Adebayo was not much more than a toddler. He was watching “The Flintstones” with his mother. Fred. Wilma. Barney. Betty. Most importantly, Bam Bam.
“Somehow, I just flipped over a coffee table,” Adebayo said of how the nickname came about, “and it just stuck with me.”
Fans of onomatopoeia rejoiced. Now, Kentucky fans expect they will, too.
Meet the Cats
This is the first in a series of 14 stories on Kentucky’s 2016-17 men’s basketball players.
Coming next: Isaiah Briscoe