Jr. Sharks grads Adams, McKown decide on NCAA Division I destinations
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Brian Adams and Hunter McKown each grew up in California and after rounding out their overall games with the San Jose Jr. Sharks, are now leaving their respective marks in junior hockey.
Both of them also used the month of November to make their NCAA Division I commitments for the 2020-21 season, with Adams deciding on the U.S. Air Force Academy (Atlantic Hockey) and McKown also heading to Colorado Springs by choosing Colorado College (NCHC).
In going to Air Force, Adams called it a dream come true when he made the commitment.
“I have been in contact with the coaching staff there for quite some time,” explained the San Ramon native. “They have kept tabs on me over the years and have always expressed an interest in my style of play. I had the opportunity to visit and felt like it was an environment where I would fit.”
Adams, serving as captain this season for the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild, will be heading to Colorado Springs next summer for basic training. Classes start in August.
“I have had the dream of serving my country and flying planes ever since I could remember – that is what sparked my interest in the academy,” Adams said. “Having the opportunity to play hockey at such a prestigious academy while receiving an elite education is something I have always wanted to experience. It seemed to knock out multiple aspirations with one stone. This dream couldn’t have become a reality without the support of my parents (Thomas and Tina) as well as my brother (David). They have supported me and have been a driving force throughout my childhood and continue to support me each day.”
McKown, a San Jose native in his second season with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, said Colorado College had everything he was looking for in taking the next step.
“To be honest, it was never really something I thought about as an option,” said McKown. “Then they reached out and I was instantly interested. When I went out and visited, Colorado is obviously very beautiful and a place where I could see myself. The coaching staff was really the deciding factor for me. All three guys – head coach Mike Haviland and assistant coaches RJ Enga and Leon Hayward – are fantastic guys who I really felt a connection with.
“I also felt Colorado was the closest school to California, which was kind of a bonus for me.”
With no regrets, McKown knows he made the right choice in choosing CC, a school that is also strong academically.
“For the academics side, I love that they use the block plan,” explained McKown. “It’s really beneficial, especially playing a sport. We only have to take one class at a time so that will allow me to focus more and get more out of one subject and give more to that one subject rather than having my mind on five topics.”
At Air Force, Adams said it’s a win-win situation, both on and off the ice.
“The program is top-notch with a coaching staff with extensive backgrounds and the goal to maximize players’ potential each day,” said Adams. “They have won their conference title on multiple occasions as well as making it to the Frozen Four. The program develops mentally tough leaders with a will to succeed in all facets of their daily lives.
“The academics there are right alongside academics at an Ivy League school. The class sizes are small, so the learning environment is close-knit and engaging. The opportunities that are presented to the cadets are experiences that wouldn’t be available at any other school.”
And once Adams arrives on campus, he’ll be the next in his family to serve in the U.S. Military. His father served in the Navy aboard the USS Independence during the Cold War and his father’s cousin, George Johnson, currently serves in the Air Force.
“I thank all of our current military as well as our veterans for their service,” said Adams. “The countless opportunities presented there, as well as having the opportunity to serve my country, is what really gravitated me towards this decision.”
Back home, McKown said the Jr. Sharks helped get his game ready for junior hockey and college hockey.
“My main coach there was Curtis Brown,” said McKown. “Everyone loves Curtis. He’s a great guy and a great coach. He makes hockey fun for everyone and I think that’s the biggest thing with him. He makes everyone feel that same joy in playing hockey. I loved my time with the Jr. Sharks and made a lot of lifelong friends.”
Adams, in addition to the Jr. Sharks, skated in Northern California for the Tri Valley Blue Devils, Santa Clara Blackhawks and Golden State Elite Eagles.
“There are countless coaches that have supported me along the way and their contributions have been significant to my success,” said Adams. “Larry Cahn has been a coach and mentor in my corner ever since he made his way north to coach in Northern California. Mike Janda has supported me along my journey and has pointed me in the right direction when there was a fork in the road. This past summer, I worked with Phil Huynh and he was able to critique and break down many skills that I set out to improve. I can’t thank them enough for all their support over the years.”
With Wenatchee, Adams wants to keep the season going well into next spring.
“The goals for the rest of the season in Wenatchee are pretty simple – to finish the regular season in a way that sets us up for success in the postseason,” said Adams. “The goal is to play as long and deep into the playoffs as possible. We plan to turn some heads and prove the naysayers wrong and win the league.”
McKown also has realistic goals and aspirations set for the rest of the 2019-20 season with the NTDP’s Under-18 Team.
“We’re doing really well with USHL competition,” said McKown. “And, obviously, we just won our first international tournament this season (2019 Five Nations Tournament, which ran Nov. 3-10 in Sundsvall, Sweden) and then we go back overseas in February (to another Five Nations event in the Czech Republic) and we just want to keep building on what we did over in Sweden in November.”
Photos/Garrett James Photography (Adams), Rena Laverty/USA Hockey (McKown)
— Matt Mackinder
(Jan. 6, 2020)