Black History Month began Feb. 1, 2012, and will be celebrated through
the end of the month, ending Feb. 29, 2012. The University of Arkansas Athletics
Department begins its fourth year of recognizing the accomplishments of current and
former Razorback student-athletes as well as other prominent students, faculty and staff
with its web series on ArkansasRazorbacks.com. This year, the web series will feature
stories of former Razorback student-athletes who have gone on to coaching positions in
universities or colleges around the state and country. In addition, the series will recognize
four Silas Hunt honorees.
"The battles that count aren't the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself--the
invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us--that's where it's at." -Jesse Owens
Responsible for the most famous rebound in Razorback women’s basketball history,
Tennille Adams is now making history as a Division I women’s basketball assistant coach
One of the top 50 recruits in the country, post player from East Chicago, Ill., Adams was a
Parade All-American when signed with the Razorbacks in 1995. Part of then assistant
coach and recruiting coordinator Tom Collen’s highly ranked 1995 class, Adams was a
member of two of the greatest Arkansas teams.
After a NWIT freshman season and beating Tennessee as a sophomore, Adams’ junior
season saw her as a key player off the bench for the Razorbacks at the post backing senior
Karen Jones and sophomore Karyn Karlin.
"No one expected us to win," Adams recalled of the 1998 NCAA run. "After each game we
would sit on the bus and say 'one more game, we gotta prove one more person
In the showdown with Duke, Adams came off the bench once again, battling against the 6-
6 anchor of the Blue Devils, Michele VanGorp.
At 6-1, Adams not only held her own, but commanded the lane. Adams played only 17
minutes, but scored 14 points off 6-of-9 from the field and was Arkansas’ leading
rebounder with six. She matched VanGorp’s 14 points, but the Duke star had only two
Arkansas’ one-point half time lead, 32-31, had withered in the second half as the eighth-
ranked Blue Devils were trying to fulfill their expected arrival at the 1998 Final Four.
Adams had other thoughts, and it was her rebound and stick-back inside the final minute
that gave Arkansas the lead for good. Her shot set the stage for the more often
remembered four free throws by her teammate and fellow Hoosier Christy Smith that iced
"Naturally, the commentators picked Duke to advance to the Final Four," Adams said. "But
what they failed to realize is that had been our motivating factor the entire tournament.
They forgot that Christy Smith was one of the best point guards in the country that year,
or that Sytia Messer as an offensive assassin with the heart of a lion. They underestimated
the fact that we played in the toughest conference in women's basketball."
Her senior year, Adams was one of two returning starters that guided the Razorbacks
through a tough, up-and-down regular season. The Women’s NIT gave the 1998 Final
Four players a chance for redemption.
Roaring through the opening rounds at home, Arkansas hosted the title game at Walton
Arena in front of a crowd of 14,163 – the first time the upper deck was opened for a
women’s basketball game.
Adams and the seniors were playing for teammate Sytia Messer, who saw her 128 game
streak of consecutive games snapped in the tournament final due to her mother’s sudden
heart attack the night before the game.
Scoring 13 points in the final against Wisconsin, Adams was one of three Razorbacks in
double-digits as Arkansas won the title, 67-64.
Adams finished her career ranked 37th in scoring at Arkansas with 637 points and 26th
all-time in rebounding with 396, playing in 127 games in her four year career.
"I think there are few colleges that put such emphasis on women's athletics at the time,
and it was not just basketball," Adams said. "We had the best support, athletic trainers and
facilities, and I also felt that Arkansas equipped me with the necessary tools to continue
my success after athletics."
Working in private business briefly after graduation, Adams began her coaching career at
Lon Morris Junior College in 2004. She moved up to the Division I ranks in her next stop
as an assistant for North Carolina A&T. Two years at A&T led Adams to American
University in Washington, D.C.
As the recruiting lead assistant for American, Adams caught the eye of cross town George
Washington University head coach Joe McKeown. When the veteran GWU head coach left
for Northwestern University, he reached out to bring Adams along to the Big 10.
Now in her fourth season at Northwestern, Adams, has helped the program to 44 wins
(prior to this season) and saw the Wildcats go from a 7-23 season in her first year to 18,
then 19 wins and back-to-back WNIT appearances.
"These last three seasons at Northwestern have been a truly dynamic experience," Adams
said. "Our student-athletes are a joy to work with and have truly set the bar for what it
means to succeed as student-athletes. I've had the pleasure to learn and grow as a coach
from a future hall of famer in Joe McKeown. To prepare top-notch athletes at an academic
institution like Northwestern and to work with a highly-respected coaching staff has been
a remarkable experience that has enabled me to excel as a coach."