Zak Wolf (@ZakWolf22)
One thousand, thirty eight miles.
That’s how far the Liacouras Center is from 2024 Temple commit Adena Webster's home city of Nassau, Bahamas.
Despite the distance, Webster felt comfortable at Temple, calling it a “home away from home”. From the first time Webster talked on the phone with head coach Diane Richardson, Webster felt an instant connection.
“When I spoke with the coaches like I just like how they just made me feel welcome.” Webster said. “When I visited, it felt like another place I could call my home and I fell in love.”
Cedricka Sweeting, Webster’s coach at Schoolhouse Prep (Fla.), also took notice. She mentioned that Webster is someone who feeds off other people’s “vibes and emotion”. Seeing her talk on the phone with Richardson and open up to her was a big deal and Sweeting realized there was a strong connection.
Adena Webster's basketball journey took her from the Bahamas to Miami and now will take her to Philadelphia. (Photo: Courtesy Cedricka Sweeting-Badmus)
Webster first came to the U.S with a dream of playing college basketball in 2021. After adjusting to the American lifestyle and the new atmosphere, Webster established herself as a force. While playing for Schoolhouse Prep and Archbishop Caroll (Fl.) as well as Central Florida Elite on the AAU circuit Webster shined. Webster’s journey to the U.S. culminated with her commitment to Temple this week.
Sweeting knew Webster when she was young. She grew up with Webster’s cousin, Shanea Armbrister, playing basketball together in the Bahamas. Both went on to play Division I basketball with Sweeting playing for Auburn, while Armbrister played for Georgia. The two later played on the Bahamas National Team together as well. When they graduated they had an idea.
Sweeting and Armbrister wanted to find a way to bring girls like them to the U.S. so they could pursue their dreams of playing college basketball.
When Webster was 11, she visited the U.S. for the first time, spending time with Armbrister. When she was there, Webster talked with Sweeting. At the end of the trip, Sweeting told Webster that she was coming back for her. Webster brushed it off like it was nothing, but Sweeting was serious.
In 2019, Sweeting and Ambrister created Paradise Hoops, an organization which brings basketball players from the Caribbean to the United States. Paradise Hoops then partnered with Schoolhouse Prep, a prep school in Miami. At the end of 2020, there was a showcase in the Bahamas which Webster attended. Webster shined at the event, enough so that she was asked to move to Miami.
Webster explained that in the Bahamas there isn’t much organized basketball. She said there is a middle school team, but they only play a few games during the year and did most of her work on her own.
“She played street basketball,” Sweeting said. “She doesn't have a robot game, she wasn't taught with cones and drills and that is because we weren’t fortunate enough to have that.”
Webster said she first touched a basketball when she was two or three, but started playing in the third grade. She spent most of her time at the park across the street from her house playing pickup. Since basketball isn’t popular amongst girls in the Bahamas, she often played against boys. Webster said that playing against them “made her tougher” and that she didn’t mind it because she loved playing.
When the chance to come to the U.S. opened up, Webster took it. She said it was always a dream for her to come to the U.S. to play, but never knew much about it.
“I just wanted to improve my situation,” Webster said. “I know I came in for a purpose, so I could make it somewhere for my family.”
Adjusting to the American lifestyle was hard for Webster, both on and off the court. Having to be away from her family was hard, when her mom and aunt dropped her off for the first time she cried. Since it was also the pandemic, Webster’s classes were online as she tried to adjust to the workload. Compared to her school the Bahamas Webster was getting a lot more work. Sweeting said that Webster didn’t adjust fully until the fall.
“I did my best to focus in school and use basketball to distract me from being far from home and missing my mom.” Webster said.
On the court, Webster’s biggest adjustment was to the pace of play. She’d never played with a shot clock before, forcing her to make quicker decisions with the ball. Webster also had to deal with the skill level, which was a lot higher in the U.S. Playing in the Bahamas, she was used to dominating whoever she played, but was challenged more in her new environment.
Webster is a skilled guard who scores at a high level, averaging 34.4 points per game at Archbishop Carroll (Fla.) this past season, which ranked eighth nationally. She explained that scoring always came naturally using her quick handle and first step to get by defenders. Webster thrives with the ball in her hands, driving the ball well, but is working on getting her shot off quicker because knows there’s more talent at the next level.
When she gets on campus in a couple years, Webster knows her scoring can help Temple, which finished 11-18 (6-10 American Athletic Conference) in 2022-23. The Owls return two of their top three leading scores from last season with Aleah Nelson coming back for a fifth year along with Tiarra East’s experience.
Since arriving in the states, Sweeting has seen Webster’s progression. Sweeting said that Webster didn’t ask many questions at the start, but now that she understands more about the game, she’s more curious. Webster also found her voice on the court with her teammates, becoming more vocal during team huddles, giving her teammates advice on how they can better their game.
Webster is looking forward to playing with the Owls in the future. Ever since coming to the United States a few years ago, it’s been Webster’s dream to play at the highest level, putting everything into getting there. Now her sacrifice is paying off.
“She was put in a situation to help herself get out of poverty,” Sweeting said. “Everything she was talking about is now coming back full circle and is her reality.”