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AKRON — Reggie McAdams stepped off the measurements of his apartment and decided where he would put the furniture long before he moved in.
He’s only 20 years old and has already designed his dream home — 3,200 square feet with a finished basement and an estimated cost of $350,000.
Now he’s pondering wood finishes and graphics for a possible new floor at Rhodes Arena and hoping his vision for renovation of the 5,500-seat venue leads to an internship for his civil engineering major.
It’s no wonder teammates call the University of Akron sophomore guard “Bob the Builder.”
“We say, ‘Come fix this for us, Bob,’” Jake Kretzer, one of three teammates who benefit from their roommate’s handyman skills, said after practice earlier this month. “He was definitely born with a creative mind. He’s got a special talent.”
That talent first manifested itself in a 4-H woodworking class McAdams took when he was entering the sixth grade. Growing up in Elida, Reggie and his brother Alex, now a junior at Ohio University, didn’t buy blueprints for their furniture, including an oak jelly cupboard for their grandmother complete with glass, drawers and a back panel that Reggie made. Working with their instructor, they drew the plans themselves.
McAdams later got hold of an old riding lawn mower and souped it up to go 35 mph.
“I messed with the motor, took off all the heavy parts, put on new tires, lowered it a little bit so it wasn’t so top heavy, put a wheelie bar on it so it wouldn’t flip over,” McAdams said. “The only thing is I wasn’t able to install brakes, you had to downshift real quick.”
Father Brent McAdams remembered what happened before his son got the mower perfectly reconfigured.
“He was going across the front yard and the front wheels flew off,” Brent McAdams said in a telephone interview. “It dug pretty deep into the dirt. He didn’t get hurt, that’s the good thing.”
When his father downsized his business, McAdams Metal Products, in 2008 and moved it into an old barn on the family farm, Reggie and Alex got busy again.
They gutted the barn, turning half into their father’s workshop and the other half into a recreation room. They put up the drywall studs and insulation, then installed the floor, carpet, a drop ceiling and sliding doors on the front. Alex did all the wiring.
These days, with the Zips (11-6, 3-1) hoping to repeat as Mid-American Conference regular-season and tournament champions, McAdams recently spent his spare time on a poker table for his roommates’ weekly Thursday night games. McAdams lives at 22 Exchange with Kretzer, Carmelo Betancourt and Pat Forsythe.
“It will be unbelievable,” Kretzer said of the poker table, although he usually chooses to sit out and save his $10. “He was online saying, ‘I’ve got to buy this vinyl, this padding.’ I said, ‘That’s going to be a lot of money.’ He said, ‘I’ll spend it on something I like to do.’”
Before the table’s debut, the four already had a plush pad. In the living room, lights are wired to a remote control and the colors can be changed. When they’re watching a movie, they choose red or blue. When they have friends over, there’s a disco selection.
McAdams’ room is just as well designed. His television is mounted on the wall. The Xbox is out of sight in the closet. McAdams created an extra closet with a curtain rod and a dresser behind it. Shelves give him more storage, including a spot for his toolbox.
“It’s crisp. It’s really nice,” Kretzer said.
Next year when they move to the new University Edge apartments, McAdams will be ready.
“We went in there and he was like, ‘Is this to scale?’” Kretzer said of their tour of the model. “He said, ‘Man, I’ve got to know.’ He got his tape measure out and started measuring.”
That’s the same thing McAdams did before his freshman year, when he lived with Kretzer and Betancourt.
“In the dorm his room looked like a hotel room,” UA coach Keith Dambrot said. “He had a bar covering the closet, it was unbelievably designed. He did that in their apartment, too, from what they tell me. He has these little idiosyncrasies. That’s his deal.”
Those idiosyncrasies might prove valuable if UA goes forward with a renovation of Rhodes Arena instead of building the Zips a new basketball home.
McAdams said the coaches came to him and asked for ideas for a new floor, which he said might be next on the agenda. Using an HGTV computer program he received as a Christmas gift two years ago, he loaded the specs, laid it out and starting experimenting with graphics.
“What color are we going to go, light grain, dark grain? What will it say on the baselines? What symbol will be in the middle?” McAdams said. “I brought in one picture and they said, ‘Try this,’ and I went back and put that in.”
McAdams believes antiquated Rhodes Arena can be salvaged and hopes he can have some input if the university makes that decision.
“They always ask me, ‘What would you do to the gym if you could redo it yourself?’” McAdams said. “Day One when I came in and they said they were going to redo the gym, I had it all planned out in my head. I know how to make this gym the coolest gym ever. You wouldn’t have to tear it down.
“It’s a good size. It’s going to fill up pretty good every game and MAC games will sell it out every time. Make it more of an arena. I can see it right now.”
Brent McAdams said he believes his son is trying to work with the UA College of Engineering to turn the arena project into an internship. Basketball will keep McAdams from getting into a summer program like Alex, who has worked at Cooper Tire in Findlay for three years and does in-state projects on his laptop from Ohio University.
McAdams doesn’t know where his love for building will lead. Brent McAdams said he could see both his sons taking over his business. The design field could also be an option, especially if Reggie McAdams is able to get his structural engineer’s license.
“My biggest dream — you can ask any of my teammates, they’ll be playing Xbox and I’ll be in my room on my computer — I just recently finished designing my dream house,” McAdams said. “It’s a pretty elaborate place. I’ll see if I can ever get close to that.”
Kretzer believes McAdams will.
“I said, ‘When you’re a house contractor, someday you’re going to come build my house,’” Kretzer said. “I’ll take the same one.”