Men's Basketball
    Jan. 12, 1998

    Spanich Gets the Green Light

    Adam Spanich

    Dozens of college basketball's best gunners have the "green light," but the one given to USC's Adam Spanich is of a totally different hue.

    His is an "ultra-green light," meaning "go and don't even think about stopping."

    According to USC head coach Henry Bibby, no shot is a bad shot for Spanich. Simply, if the ball leaves Spanich's hand and is last seen headed toward the basket, Bibby is pleased.

    "That is Adam's job," says Bibby of his 6-foot-7, 212-pound sharp-shooting forward. "We want him to shoot the ball. He is one of the best shooters I have ever been around. He can flat out shoot the basketball."

    Spanich's three-point shot statistics, which show that he is 39-of-93 this season, may lead some to believe that he's just another perimeter shooter with a marksman's touch, but his story is much more than that.

    Consider that even though Spanich was second on the team in scoring through 14 games at 13.1 points per game, he had only started two games for the Trojans. In fact, he's fourth on the squad in minutes played. At this pace, he'll be USC's most prolific scorer off the bench ever.

    Furthermore, at his present pace, Adam could amazingly end up threatening Phil Glenn's all-time USC record for three-pointers in a season (93 set in 29 games in 1993), despite playing less minutes (Glenn led the Trojans by averaging 31.4 minutes per game that season, while Spanich is currently averaging just 20.2 minutes per game).

    So far this season, Spanich's role has been that of instant offense off the bench and the player the Trojans turn to if the task at hand is getting back into a game that is quickly starting to slip away. Although his role as a super sub is totally new to him, it's something he has grown accustomed to.

    "Everybody wants to start, but I will never question Henry Bibby," says Spanich, a junior who is working hard to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. "If coming off the bench is what he wants me to do, that's what I'll do."

    In USC's victory at San Diego State, he poured in a season-high 27 points (8-of-13 from the field, 7-of-11 on three-pointers) in 27 minutes off the bench at San Diego State on Nov. 29. The seven three-pointers are the most by a Pac-10 player this season.

    "I've always had a gift for shooting," says Spanich, who later recorded the first double-double of his USC career at Ohio State with 21 points (including five three-pointers) and 10 rebounds in only 23 minutes of action.

    In addition to his magic stroke, Spanich was also blessed with a good amount of height at an early age (he's averaging 4.0 rebounds per game). He was 6-foot-1 in the seventh grade and wound up at his current height of 6-foot-7 at age 15.

    With that kind of size, it is no surprise that young Adam spent a lot of time playing with older and bigger kids, which contributed greatly to the development of the lightning-quick release he utilizes on his jump shot.

    "My release was developed by having to go against tough competition," Spanich says. "I've always tried to just get the ball and get rid of it as soon as possible."

    After several years of that kind of seasoning, he was so successful as a high school senior in 1995 that he earned the prestigious title of Iowa's "Mr. Basketball" while playing at Regis High in Cedar Rapids.

    However, no matter how accurate his shooting is and how instant his release has become, Spanich cannot score alone at the collegiate level. Primarily a catch-and-shoot gunner, he needs the ball to be distributed to him at the right time and needs to have solid picks set for him.

    "The guys on the team have been great," he says. "You don't see six screens set for Adam Spanich in the score sheet, but that's just as important as anything else. I only need to be open for a second, then I can do my thing. My teammates are allowing me to get that time."

    There is no denying that Spanich can shoot and is one of the most deadly weapons coming off the bench in the country, but even he understands why he's not playing 35 minutes a game. Not the fastest or quickest player on the Trojan roster, Spanich isn't as fearsome a force on the defensive side of the court.

    With that in mind, he and the USC coaching staff are constantly working on techniques that will help him on both sides of the court.

    "Basketball is all about angles and brains," Spanich says. "That's what coach Bibby is always telling me and he's right. A lot of it has to do with angles and playing people smart."

    The road Spanich took to get to USC was quite unconventional. Born in Springfield, Ill., he and his family moved to Cedar Rapids when he was in the eighth grade.

    During his senior year at Regis High, he committed to Wake Forest but had second thoughts. He then committed to Iowa State, but later had to tell Cyclone head coach Tim Floyd he again changed his mind.

    "Coach Floyd was pretty upset," says Spanich, whose father, Steve, played basketball and baseball at Illinois and pitched for the Chicago White Sox until his career was shortened by a rotator cuff injury in 1971.

    With all of that behind him and his family's religious beliefs playing a large part in his decision, Spanich enrolled at Oral Roberts, where his brother went to school.

    Eventually even those plans changed. Spanich, who didn't get the kind of experience he was looking for as a freshman at Oral Roberts, wasn't thrilled about where the program was headed. So he returned to Iowa and enrolled at Marshalltown Community College.

    He blossomed at Marshalltown, averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists as a sophomore and connecting on 47 percent of his three-pointers (92-of-195). Spanich was even more of a marksman during league play, sinking 60% of his attempts from beyond the arc. He was a 1997 J.C. All-America honorable mention selection.

    Spanich then signed a letter of intent to attend USC. For him, the reason behind that decision was clear.

    "The reason was Henry Bibby," Spanich says. "He played for John Wooden, the best coach ever in this game. He's won at all levels and he knows what it takes. He pushes players to achieve their full potential. He can get the full Adam Spanich out of Adam Spanich. He's the reason I came here, because he's a great coach."

    -- By John Tamanaha, Assistant Sports Information Director