U of A’s Adam Paige embodies ‘culture of Golden Bears basketball’ on and off the court

University of Alberta men’s basketball star Adam Paige and his head coach Barnaby Craddock have different anecdotes for what they felt the Surrey, B.C., native’s breakout moment was with the Golden Bears.

But both are in full agreement that it happened very early for the now 23-year-old that joined the U of A in the 2018-19 season.

“[In a game against Lethbridge] we had some injuries and had to play him at centre,” said Craddock of the 6-foot-8 guard-forward hybrid. “And he became unguardable, because he could pick and pop and shoot the three.

“And at the same time, he could guard the other team’s big guy. So they were having a hard time getting out on him on the perimeter, and he whacked in a bunch of threes, and we won somewhat easily. And we’re like, ‘Jeez, Adam’s a pretty versatile guy.'”

Paige had a similar story about stepping up due to injuries, although at a completely different position when one of the all-time great Golden Bears, Brody Clarke, was dealing with an injury in the 2019 Canada West (CW) playoffs.

“I think the biggest one my first year was a CW semifinals game against the University of British Columbia when Brody … hurt his shoulder,” Paige said. “I ended up having [nearly] 20 points that game and it kept us afloat for that third quarter when Brody was out.”

While Paige was able to step in then for Clarke, there was no question that the 6-foot-8 forward was the driving force of the team in Paige’s first two seasons, graduating after the 2019-20 campaign as the Golden Bears’ No. 4 all-time scorer and No. 2 all-time rebounder.

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Paige was able to rack up plenty of minutes as the first option off the bench in his first two years, but was only able to secure eight starts over his first 58 games.

Carrying on ‘culture of Golden Bears basketball’

The departure of Clarke along with regular starting guards Ivan Ikomey and Dwan Williams left a void that Paige had a chance to fill coming into 2021-22 after the 2020-21 season was lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the court, Paige helped lead the Golden Bears to a perfect 16-0 season in the CW, and secured two double-doubles en route to a bronze medal in the 2022 U Sports Men’s Final 8 Basketball Tournament at home in Edmonton.

But the growth was even more substantial off the court.

“He had multiple captains ahead of him for his first three years,” Craddock said. “All of a sudden, he’s like, ‘Oh, I’m in a leadership role’. It’s just the way he’s embraced that and helped the younger guys to carry on the culture of Golden Bears basketball.

“He’s finishing up his education degree and he’s going to be a phenomenal teacher when he’s done playing basketball.”

However, Paige has no plans to stop playing basketball any time soon, saying he wants to go play professionally in Europe after this season.

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Professional basketball opportunities

Paige got his first taste of professional basketball in the summer of 2021 after being drafted ninth overall by the Fraser Valley Bandits in the Canadian Elite Basketball League U Sports Draft.

He appeared in 15 games for the Bandits (now based in Vancouver) across the 2021 and 2022 CEBL seasons before joining the Edmonton Stingers for another 15 games this summer.

While playing professionally in B.C. was a unique opportunity for Paige, his move to the Stingers organization this summer offered a more comfortable feel with numerous U of A connections in the form of Golden Bears coaches and players, including reuniting on the same court with Clarke.

Another important connection is Stingers head coach Jordan Baker, who served as an assistant coach for Paige’s first two seasons with the Golden Bears.

“There are a lot of familiar faces in the Stingers’ organization, and that … made it really easy to get in there and understand what’s happening, especially with Jordan coaching me at U of A for two years,” said Paige of Baker, who holds U of A records for career points, rebounds, assists and steals from his 2009-2014 playing career.

“Some of the stuff that we ran out of U of A, you have a kind of similar system that filtered in with the Stingers. You don’t have to re-learn every single thing.”

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Donning the red and white

A steeper learning curve for Paige was playing for the Canadian men’s 3×3 team at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, where he credits 3×3 veterans Jordan Jensen-Whyte, Alex Johnson and Bikramjit Gill for helping him get accustomed to the quicker-paced game.

Paige won bronze at the event, and is always keen to represent Canada, winning silver with the U23 team at GloblJam 2023, and also being invited to selection camps for Canada’s U18 and U19 squads in his career.

Canada’s Adam Paige, Biramjit Gill, Jordan Jensen-Whyte and Alex Johnson, left to right, display their bronze medals in men’s 3×3 basketball at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press/File)

“Hopefully, there’s another national team opportunity, whether it’s an [Olympic] qualifying window or whatever it is,” said Paige. “That’s one of my goals to play one of those, and put on the red and white again.

“There are a lot of cool opportunities with [3×3] being an Olympic sport now. So that’s stayed on my mind. Maybe eventually I might transition to that and focus on that a little bit. But I just want to keep playing basketball as long as I can and go wherever it takes me.”

Around the U Sports world:

  • The Western men’s football team continued its perfect season by defeating Laurier 29-14 in the Yates Cup, setting up a national semifinal with the Montreal Carabins, which took down defending Vanier Cup champion Laval 12-6. UBC beat the Golden Bears 28-27 in dramatic fashion in the Hardy Cup, now creating a clash with AUS champion St. FX. Watch both matchups live this Saturday on, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.
  • UBC had quite the weekend, sweeping the men’s and women’s cross country nationals, winning gold over Trinity Western in the women’s U Sports soccer championships in a 1-0 extra-time thriller, and bronze at the men’s soccer nationals. The Cape Breton Capers took down the Montreal Carabins 1-0 to claim men’s soccer gold.

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