When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of all college sports in March, players found themselves out of the spotlight. For junior guard Adrien Nunez, though, it was an opportunity to reach an even bigger audience than before.
Over the course of the past few months, Nunez has garnered a significant amount of fame and attention on the wildly popular video-sharing platform TikTok. He boasts nearly 650,000 followers on his verified account, where he posts videos of him playing basketball, dancing and performing comedy skits.
Nunez first discovered the app in January when junior forward Brandon Johns Jr. became interested and encouraged his teammate to download it. Nunez was hesitant at first, believing the app to be corny, but he eventually agreed to create an account in February.
“As soon as I downloaded TikTok, I loved it,” Nunez said. “I thought the videos were so entertaining.”
While he posted content occasionally during the season, it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that Nunez began posting videos consistently. With school online, basketball over, and just two to four hours a day set aside for workouts, Nunez found himself with a great deal of free time.
“Once classes ended, I would find myself in the house with nothing to do,” Nunez said. “I started to fill that time by making videos, and they started gaining a lot of traction.”
One of Nunez’s most popular videos in the early stages of his TikTok career came when he recruited Johns and senior forward Isaiah Livers, as well as former teammates Jordan Poole, Zavier Simpson and Ibi Watson, to react to their own highlights. The video ended up being so popular that a sequel was released, this time featuring sophomore wing Franz Wagner and former Wolverines Moritz Wagner and Charles Matthews. Michigan coach Juwan Howard even agreed to appear in the video, reacting to a poster dunk from his days as an NBA player with the Washington Wizards.
“I saw a high school team do that and I thought it was a cool video,” Nunez said. “I thought to myself ‘I have a lot of connections that I could make a really cool video with this that no one has ever done before,’ so I reached out to my friends and they were kind enough to help me out. It was so much fun to film and see the reception.”
While Nunez has gained a new audience through TikTok, he’s also used it as a way to strengthen his relationship with his girlfriend Carson Roney. Roney, who is currently a junior forward for Shawnee State’s women’s basketball team, boasts nearly 1.2 million followers on the app, and she and Adrien have frequently appeared in each other’s videos. The two recently created a YouTube channel called “Carson and Adrien,” which currently has 65,000 subscribers.
“Outside of making videos, it’s really like any other relationship,” Nunez said. “We’re having a good time though. It gives us something to connect on and bond over other than just being athletes.”
Nunez made arguably his biggest splash on TikTok in August when he began posting videos of himself dribbling a basketball to the beat of a song, calling it a “dribble dance.” The trend took off, with thousands of young fans recreating his moves in their own backyards.
“It felt like literally every kid with a basketball court started doing it, and I freaked,” Nunez said. “Thousands and thousands of kids doing my dance. It was incredible.”
When speaking about TikTok as a whole, Nunez is most fascinated and impressed by the global diversity featured on the app, saying he routinely receives messages from fans from all over the world, including Greece, Egypt and Australia. To see the wide audience he’s been able to reach and captivate over the past year continues to amaze him, and he’s hoping that the app continues to be a part of his life.
“I’m happy I found it,” Nunez said. “I hope it’s here to stay for the long term. It’s a pretty cool thing.”
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