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The Scarlet & Black

Adam Phillips recognized nationally amid 10-game win streak

Cory Hall

Entering the final two minutes of play against Illinois College on Feb. 10, Adam Phillips `23 had not attempted a shot in the second half. Yet, the Pioneers’ after-timeout play centered on Phillips — setting him up in the corner for a 3-point shot, which he buried to give Grinnell a 90-87 lead. The team never looked back, finishing the game with 8 unanswered points to win 95-87.  

Phillips’ shot propelled the team to their eighth consecutive win, a run that has earned accolades both for the team and Phillips individually. For Phillips, it was a “surreal feeling” to make the pivotal shot after struggling throughout the game. “That’s just the mentality of the system … that it doesn’t matter, we’re going to keep getting shots up,” he said. Though, Phillips performance before the go-ahead basket is not typical of recent games. 

In Grinnell’s Feb. 5 victory over Monmouth College, Phillips set a career high, scoring 41 points on just 18 shot attempts. All 13 of his made shots were 3-pointers, including a perfect 7/7 from three in the second half. Grinnell won the game 127-75 in the first half of a back-to-back against Monmouth. They completed the sweep the following day by a score of 101-91. 

Phillips’ 41 points are the most in a single game for any player in the Midwest Conference (MWC) this season. Grinnell Athletics’ press release states that his 3-point percentage in the game, 76.5 percent, is the highest single-game mark on more than 14 attempts in program history.  

Phillips received prominent recognition for his performance on Feb. 7 when the MWC named him “Performer of the Week.” A day later, announced that he made their “Team of the Week” alongside players from Division III teams across the nation.  

Phillips said that he received word of the latter recognition while alone in his dorm room. “I had no idea that I was even in contention,” he said. “I saw the … social media page posting something about me, and I thought they were reposting the [Performer of the Week] award.” Once he realized what the post was saying, he was honored. “I was the only junior on the list … so that was really cool, to be up there with the best in the country.”  

For Phillips, his 13-17 3-point shooting night was a continuation of a torrid shooting stretch. On the season, he has poured in nearly five 3-pointers per game on 45 percent shooting. For perspective, he is one of nine players since the 2011-2012 season to attempt more than 10 3-point shots per game in Grinnell’s high-octane offensive system. Among those players, his 3-point percentage is more than 3.5 percentage points higher than the next player’s. That second-place player? Former national darling Jack Taylor `15, who scored 138 points in a single game in 2012. In fact, Taylor is the only Grinnell player to make more 3-pointers per game in a season than Phillips in that time span.  

Phillips dismissed comparisons to Taylor or to other high-scoring Grinnellians of past teams. But he noted that this was neither his first time scoring 40 points nor hitting 13 3-pointers. “There’s been a couple other games like that in high school. … Everything felt like it was going in.”  

Phillips’ 41 points came in just 14 minutes of play against Monmouth. Phillips said his teammates joked that he could have scored 100 points or more if he played the full 40 minutes. “I don’t know about that,” he said.  

To find adequate comparisons for Phillips’ performance this season, it may be necessary to look to the NBA. 

Phillips said he idolizes players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who both play for the Golden State Warriors, for their ability to take and make large numbers of 3-point shots. His current biggest inspiration, however, is Miami Heat forward Duncan Robinson. Like Phillips, Robinson started his college career at Division 3 Williams College before transferring to the University of Michigan — and now makes $18 million a year in a role strikingly similar to Phillips.  

Robinson takes more than 85 percent of his field goal attempts from beyond the 3-point arc, a preposterous proportion even with the NBA’s 3-point “revolution.” Phillips, meanwhile, has taken more than 96 percent of his shots from 3 this season. On Robinson, he said, “I see a lot of myself in him … he kind of does what I do: [he] runs around and shoots a lot of threes.”   

Grinnell’s contest against Illinois College on Feb. 10 was their final home game of the season. They have embarked on a road trip for their final four games, starting with a win against Beloit on Tuesday, Feb. 15. Phillips emphasized that this would be a “really, really tough stretch” for the team. “Making sure I’m getting sleep is going to be a huge thing, especially with all this travel,” he said. With their most recent win against Cornell College, the pioneers have clinched a spot in the MWC tournament.

In the midst of a 10-game winning streak, Phillips is confident the team can keep their momentum going. “We’ve accomplished a lot this year, but we’re not done yet. I’m really looking forward to this week. It’s gonna be tough, but I’m ready for the challenge,” he said. With success in the coming weeks, Grinnell could go as far as the Division III Championship. “If we could go dancing, I think that’d be really fun.” 

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