GREENSBORO-While Aggie fans will be packing the house on Saturday for the most anticipated North Carolina A&T women's basketball game of the season, sophomore forward Tiffanie Adair will be looking to continue to pack a punch in the paint and in the stat sheet.
The Aggies face N.C. Central Saturday afternoon at 2 inside of what will certainly be a sellout crowd at Corbett Sports Center. On Monday, Adair was awarded her fourth MEAC Rookie of the Week title in the last five weeks. She followed that afternoon's announcement from the MEAC office with her fourth double-double in six games, leading the Aggies to a 69-45 victory against Savannah State with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
That followed a stellar night in which she posted a career-best 27 points and 15 rebounds against S.C. State. It was the most number of rebounds an Aggie has tallied in a single game since Amber Bland totaled 15 on Nov. 29, 2008 against East Carolina, and it was the second best single game scoring performance this season behind JaQuayla Berry's 28 at N.C. Central on Dec. 3. Head coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs continues to be impressed with her rising star forward.
Bibbs texted Adair after her stellar performance against S.C. State with a message that said, "Hey, you did a good job.
'I saw the heart and determination that you played with,'" Bibbs' text continued.
Adair's return text said, 'Yes ma'am. From what you all are teaching me, I'm going to continue to work hard.'"
Bibbs' reply? 'With that and the great attitude you have, you're going to truly grow and continue to grow.'"
Adair's progression has accelerated over the last month. After sitting out her first year as an Aggie to focus on her academics, Adair entered her sophomore season as a reserve. She came off the bench for the Aggies first 16 games and averaged just 3.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in just 212 minutes of action.
Injuries and personnel changes after the New Year made room for Adair in the Aggies starting lineup. She took a hold of her opportunity. In the Aggies last nine games, all starts by Adair, no Aggie has scored more points (130), grabbed more rebounds (91) or blocked more shots (7). She is also shooting close to 60 percent from the field in the same span.
Adair's surge in the last month has been vital as her production has helped to fill the gaps. Starting guard Mikala Scott did not return after the New Year because of an administrative decision. Starting forward Tracy King is out for the season after being injuring her knee in practice on Jan. 16, and JaQuayla Berry missed two games after the New Year because of a knee injury.
"It's an honor, it really is but I can't take all the credit," said the Duncan, S.C. native. "I give the credit to my coaches and my teammates. I can't do it by myself. The guards get the ball inside. I wouldn't be able to do it without them."
"I'm telling you this kid definitely has a lot to give, but she's a humble kid and you've got to have that," said Bibbs. "Tiffanie's just a sweet kid. I just hope she never changes with that attitude. She has a great attitude and you love that. "
The last time the Eagles of N.C. Central saw Adair, she played just nine minutes from the bench and collected two points with a rebound in the team's 84-74 victory on Dec. 3. This time around, they can expect to see much more from the forward.
Now she is drawing comparisons to Bland, an A&T women's basketball great. Adair, whose physical features are eerily similar to Bland, wears No. 23 like Bland did from 2006-09. Bland, who is the Aggies all-time leader in 3-pointers made, was more a guard, while Adair is a post player.
"When I first came here people were always like, 'You've got to step up. Amber Bland, Amber Bland, Amber Bland.' I looked up to her, I read about her, like this is what I want to do," said Adair. "It's an honor. I'm proud to be here, I love it here. I wouldn't go anywhere else."
While Adair came into the A&T women's basketball program looking to model herself after Bland, maybe she should keep Cathy Robinson in mind. Robinson of Florida A&M won the MEAC Rookie of the Week award six times before capturing the 1992-93 Rookie of the Year award. Adair is two off the pace.
"My personal goals are just to play, play the game I like to play, try to get Rookie of the Week and Rookie of the Year," Adair said. "Coach is always telling me it's possible, anything that you work for you can get."