Danielle Adams

Texas A&M’s Danielle Adams holds a piece of the net after the Aggie women’s basketball team beat Notre Dame 76-70 in the national championship game in Indianapolis on April 5, 2011.

Danielle Adams, who led the Texas A&M women’s basketball program to its only national championship in 2011, was the greatest consolation prize in program history.

In 2009, the Aggies were hotly pursuing Sugar Land Dulles’ Kelsey Bone, the nation’s second-ranked recruit in that year’s class. The 6-foot-5 Bone would be the perfect complement to A&M’s recent top 10 recruiting classes that included guards Sydney Carter, Sydney Colson, Tyra White and forward Adaora Elonu. Bone’s mother, Kim Williams, was pushing for Bone to pick A&M, but Bone opted for South Carolina. Her late signing in mid-April left the Aggies scrambling.

A&M rebounded nicely by signing the 6-1 Adams, who was the national junior college women’s basketball player of the year at Jefferson College in Missouri. Adams, a former Missouri signee, averaged 22.1 points and 2.8 blocked shots per game her sophomore season for 34-1 Jefferson.

The addition of Adams capped a top five recruiting class for A&M, which was coming off a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA tournament.

“This is the highest-rated class in school history,” A&M coach Gary Blair said at the time.

The class as a group didn’t live up to expectations. Post Diamond Ashmore and guard/wing Cierra Windham never started a game. Forward Kristi Bellock and point guard Adrienne Pratcher were late bloomers, both becoming full-time starters as seniors with solid seasons. Pratcher earned Southeastern Conference second-team all-conference honors and Bellock earned honorable mention.

Adams, though, was the crown jewel. She averaged 22.3 points her senior season capped by a 30-point effort in a 76-70 victory over Notre Dame in the national title game. Adams scored 22 points in the second half, including a stretch in which she scored 10 of the team’s 13 points while turning a 48-43 deficit into a 56-53 lead.

Adams was the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player and also became the program’s only Associated Press first-team All-American. She’s also The Eagle’s player of the decade on the program’s 2010s All-Decade Team.

Adams, ironically, is joined on the first team by Bone, who transferred to A&M after her freshman season at South Carolina and replaced Adams after sitting out the 2010-11 season per NCAA rules.

Guards Chennedy Carter and Courtney Walker and forward Courtney Williams round out the first team.

The second team includes four starters on the 2011 national championship team — Colson, Sydney Carter, White and Elonu. Khaalia Hillsman (2014-18) completes the second team.

Adams’ growth into arguably the nation’s most valuable player during the 2010-11 season came as a slight surprise. Many wondered if she could flourish in A&M’s intense style of play when the Aggies signed her. The burly Adams was tabbed a smaller version of Charles Barkley, but she lost 25-30 pounds while at A&M and flourished on the court. She became a mismatch with her ability to hit 3-pointers or drive the lane and muscle her way around the basket.

Adams was thankful for the help from Jennifer Jones, the program’s strength and conditioning coach. Jones got Adams in the best shape of her career.

“Coming in, I wasn’t that great of a defensive player, but [assistant coach Vic Schaefer] pushed me every day and inspired me to play defense,” Adams said. “I owe all that to him and my teammates just pushing me every day in practice.”

Adams said she signed with A&M over Louisville because of the family atmosphere and her close relationship with A&M assistant coach Johnny Harris. Adams, who played at Summit Lee High School in Missouri just outside Kansas City, also was good friends with White and A&M guard Tanisha Smith, another junior college transfer.

“There was just a lot of reasons [to come to A&M],” Adams said.

Adams, who is hopeful to play in the WNBA this season or overseas, was The Eagle’s all-decade player of the year over Chennedy Carter, who averaged a school-record 22.5 points in 88 games.

Guard Jordan Jones and power forwards N’dea Jones and Anriel Howard were others considered for the team.

Jordan Jones averaged only 6.6 points in 128 games, 91 of them starts, but her defense was worth twice that much. She was the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year as a junior and took the honors alone as a senior. She earned second-team All-SEC honors her last two seasons.

Howard, who transferred to Mississippi State for her senior season, is the school’s all-time rebounding leader with 1,002. She averaged 9.1 points and 9.8 rebounds in 102 games, 87 of them starts.

N’dea Jones, who has a season left, averaged 11 points and 11.7 rebounds last season.

NOTES — A&M went 250-82 in the 2010s, reaching the Sweet 16 five times. ... The 2010-11 team went 33-5, highlighted by back-to-back victories over top seeds Baylor and Stanford in the in the NCAA tournament. A&M beat Baylor 58-46 in the Elite Eight then nipped Stanford 63-62 on White’s basket with 3 seconds left to advance to play Notre Dame for the title. ... Adams said the 2010-11 team’s success was because of its great focus, mindset and dedication. That run actually started with a 73-72 loss to Gonzaga in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament when Adams missed a baseline jumper with 4 seconds left. “We all stayed over for the summer, went to summer school and worked out together and did a lot of things, including pickup games,” Adams said. “I just knew my senior year was going to be a special year because everyone was dedicated. I just thought it was going to be a special season.” ... Baylor beat A&M the first three times they met in 2011 as All-America center Brittney Griner helped the Lady Bears stretch their winning streak against A&M to eight straight. The Aggies wore down Griner in the Elite Eight. Griner scored 20 points but made only 6 of 18 field goals. She also missed 7 of 15 free throws and was noticeably frustrated. “I did think it was one of my better defensive games,” said Adams, who scored only six points on 3-of-12 shooting but played a great physical game. Reserve posts Karla Gilbert and Kelsey Assarian also combined to play 19 minutes while helping guard Griner, and A&M’s guards also collapsed into coverage when Griner touched the ball. “Coach Schaefer had a great defensive plan,” Adams said. “And Sydney Carter took over on the offensive end and Sydney Colson and Tyra chipped in. We were all physical with her.”

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