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‘Senior one-and-done’: Adrian Chapman’s journey from the HPER to Assembly Hall



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Senior guard Adrian Chapman stands with his family March 7 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Chapman walked on to the IU men's basketball team as a senior. Photo courtesy of IU Athletics

Moments after he’d gotten the call he had dreamed of and prayed for, Adrian Chapman stepped out of his car and walked into a KFC. 

Chapman, an IU senior, had just left church for the KFC near College Mall in October 2019, to get lunch. People asked the 6-foot-2-inch Chapman if he was on the basketball team wherever he went during his first three years at IU. At Kroger, people would ask him to get an item off the top shelf. 

But those who saw Chapman were always disappointed to learn he wasn’t one of the candy stripe-wearing players they watched at Assembly Hall. 

Or at least until that afternoon when he walked into KFC. Almost immediately upon entering, a child asked Chapman if he was on the basketball team. 

For the first time, he could answer yes. 

***

Chapman thought his basketball career was over when he took off his high school uniform for the final time. 

He was always the fastest kid on his football and basketball teams. To the surprise of some close to him, Chapman picked basketball as a sport to focus on as he began high school.  

He went to Brownsburg High School in Brownsburg, Indiana, and made it onto the varsity squad by the end of his freshman year. He rarely played varsity in his first year, but his speed and 3-point shooting ability, made him a key piece going forward. 

Until he hurt his knee — injuring his tibia tuberosity, he said — while working out with his dad. 

Chapman missed most of his sophomore year and saw players he jumped ahead of as a freshman catch up to him. He was a role player as a junior — used only for his 3-point shooting — and never saw a flurry of college offers. After a high school career that never lived up to expectations, Chapman had one last shot. 

“I think my junior year is what gave me motivation to work hard that summer,” Chapman said. “I came back my senior year. That’s when I came back and became captain. I think I had a good season, but I didn’t get quite the exposure I wanted to that year. From that point on I assumed my basketball career was over.” 

Chapman averaged 8.6 points per game as a senior. He thought he was better than Division III offers, he just wasn’t able to prove it. 

Hanover College would’ve been Chapman’s choice. His fast-paced style of play and shooting ability fit the style the coaches there wanted to play. 

But Chapman grew up going to games at Assembly Hall. He grew up an IU fan. 

Besides, he was burnt out by basketball. He didn’t want to have the grueling schedule of a student athlete just to play in a high school-sized gym. He wanted to be with his friends.

So Chapman gave up basketball. He chose Bloomington. 

***

On IU’s campus, at the top of a steep driveway through the side doors of the Intramural Center, are 10 basketball courts. Under yellow lighting, each court features 10 sweaty students running back and forth, clanking shots off the rim and pretending to look like their favorite NBA stars or relive their high school glory days. 

Chapman was there Tuesday and Sunday nights after his classes playing competitive intramural games and pick-up games just like any other student. 

But when Chapman was on the floor, everyone knew it. 

“I think when you go up the HPER, most people knew who I was when I walked in,” Chapman said. "Whenever I was playing up there, I felt like I was above the competition I was playing at.” 

Chapman played with his church team in competitive intramural leagues through his first three years at IU. Even exhausted from basketball after high school, a part of him always missed it. 

He remembers half-court shots and championship games against his roommate, Zack McKeown, the head manager for the IU men’s basketball team. He remembers missing the game-winning shot against McKeown’s intramural team and questioning his choice to come to IU as Hanover went to the Elite 8 in 2017. 

He remembers being told that he should try out for the basketball team. His friends and opponents were serious, but Chapman had never thought much of it. 

He was used to being mistaken as a basketball player walking around campus or down Kirkwood Avenue. 

Even amid the monotony of his nights in the IC, where results don’t define you and there are no Adidas backpacks or sweatshirts to differentiate athletes, Chapman stood out. 

*** 

Chapman only had one chance. 

It was his senior year and he was preparing to complete his degree in Safety Management. But this year, he had decided he would take his shot.  

“I think it really hit me that my chance of ever playing college basketball would be over after I graduated,” Chapman said. “If not now, then it will never happen.” 

Chapman kept it a virtual secret he was trying out for the team. He didn’t tell McKeown. He felt his skill set was good enough to make it, but he wasn’t confident. He worked two jobs — a cashier at TIS Bookstore and mixing chemicals in Dr. Heather Hundley’s lab — and didn’t want to quit either.

Hundley said Chapman was the “cook in the kitchen” in the lab. He would mix chemicals to prepare for other students in the lab. Hundley estimates he prepared thousands of mixtures over his three years in the lab.

“Things about Adrian that stand out: He has a smile on his face every day,” Hundley said. “He is extremely polite. He has wonderful work ethic. I think it was our great fortune to hire him.” 

Chapman and two co-workers were all tall, and Hundley joked that they could have a lab basketball team. Chapman and Hundley talked occasionally about basketball, but he didn’t mention the tryouts until he had made the first rounds of cuts. 

Through it all, Chapman remained humble. Even as he made it past a few rounds of cuts, Chapman was never truly confident he would make the team. 

He told Hundley he was going to keep going, but that it was unlikely he would ever be selected. 

Hundley held Chapman’s job at the lab for him just in case he needed it back. 

But he prayed every day he would make the team. He prayed to work as hard as he could. He prayed to not be scared. 

“That’s what held me back from trying out in the first place was fear,” Chapman said. “I was like, ‘If it’s meant to be then it’s meant to be, but if not, I’ll just go on with my senior year.’”

And as he pulled into the KFC parking lot, his phone started ringing. He was told he was getting his locker. His prayers were answered. 

“It’s an amazing opportunity to play at a Big Ten school as a walk-on,” Hundley said. “What’s a better way to end your senior year?” 

***

They called him “Turbo." 

Chapman has always gone by a nickname. Growing up it was AC. Suddenly he was being called Turbo in practice.  

Chapman accelerated during a drill in the late stages of tryouts — with the scholarship players  — sprinting down the floor to receive a pass from a coach waiting on the opposite end. 

“You must be fast, aren’t you?” IU strength coach Cliff Marshall said. “I’m going to start calling you 'Turbo' you’re going so fast!” 

The nickname stuck. He was becoming part of the team.

It didn’t hit Chapman when he got his locker or put on his jersey for the first time. He could now walk around campus in his own athletics gear, and respond yes when asked if he was on the team. His professors would always ask about the game the night before or what it’s like being on the team. 

He had gone to games with student season tickets for his first three years. Now, he was on the floor itself wearing the red script Indiana jacket and famous candy stripe pants like the players he’d cheered on for so many years. 

Now, he was one of them. 

Chapman checked in for the first time against Western Illinois, the first game of IU’s season on Nov. 5. He was ready when head coach Archie Miller called on him to run over to the scorer’s table. He thought he would get a chance with IU leading by over 30 points in the final minute. 

He got one attempt at a shot, catching the ball near the top of the 3-point arc. He used his speed to drive past his defender, switching to his left hand for the reverse lay-up. He had a good look, but he was nervous and missed the shot — his only shot attempt of his IU career.

His parents came to almost every game, even knowing it was unlikely their son would come in the game. 

Chapman’s role was mostly in practice, helping the scholarships players prepare for the upcoming games. In some ways, it was a role similar to the preparation job he has in the lab. 

And on March 7, Chapman and his family all stood together on the floor of Assembly Hall, the arena they had grown up coming to, for Chapman’s senior day. That moment was one Chapman had never envisioned for himself in his first three years. 

Chapman and his family stood next to his framed No. 15 jersey to the applause of the remaining fans in the building. He didn’t get the roar of applause that fellow seniors De’Ron Davis and Devonte Green received, but he didn’t expect to. Chapman knew the experience was something few people had — being honored as part of the biggest sport at their dream school. 

“We probably got more out of him than he’s gotten out of it for himself,” Miller said to the crowd. “Adrian did a great job of joining us, adding a lot of value to what we tried to do to make our staff have an easier life on the practice floor, and he continues to this day to have an unbelievable attitude. He’s been nothing but a joy to be around, and we’re thankful for this last season in general that he joined us.” 

Chapman said being part of a team again was among his favorite parts of the year. He missed that since high school, and didn’t find it the same way with intramural games. He said he’ll remember all the hours he spent hanging out with the team in Bloomington or in hotels on trips. Those moments made all the work, knowing he would almost never play, worth it. 

On his journey from the IC basketball courts, Hundley’s lab and the everyday life of any other student to a member of a historic Big Ten basketball team, Chapman summed it all up with a joke he made with his parents.

“I’m the first ever senior one- and-done.”

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