By Matt Popchock
Even if you had never seen Steven Adams play, it would be impossible to overlook him on the floor, not even as a member of a star-studded high school basketball program like Notre Dame Prep.
A 250-pound senior from Rotorua, New Zealand, and the centerpiece of a recruiting class ranked among the top 15 nationally by CBS Sports, Adams is already projected to be a pro basketball star in the foreseeable future, and a simple, passing glance at the seven-foot forward/skyscraper suggests he’s NBA-ready.
He was courted by Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon while the latter coached the American under-19 team in the FIBA World Championships, and Adams has continued to gather national attention since. It’s attention he admits has not been easy to handle.
Perhaps that would account for some of what we saw in the annual Pittsburgh Basketball Club Legends Classic at Ambridge High School Sunday afternoon. The blue-chipper reminded us of a young Aaron Gray; he is freakishly strong, rebounds well, and moves the ball skillfully, and once he conquers his cold feet and really starts attacking the basket, woe betides any player who stands in his path.
Despite that tentativeness, and despite the fact Notre Dame Prep ran a guard-oriented offense, Adams certainly was a presence on the floor Sunday. He contributed 12 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks, and two assists to a 75-56 win over Massanutten Military Academy with a number of local hoops dignitaries looking on–to say nothing of the renegade Oakland Zoo members who proudly brandished Adams’ national flag.
Here’s what Adams had to say to the media, including “Mr. High School Sports,” afterward regarding, among other things, his own game, and his early impressions of Pittsburgh:
Was this a fun weekend for you, between going to The Pete and seeing your future team win yesterday, and getting a win on Sunday?
“Oh yeah, definitely. I love the Zoo. The Zoo is awesome.” (laughter)
You know, a bunch of them were waving your flag out there today…
(big smile) “Yeah, I saw that. I was like, woo-hoo!”
Obviously your team has a lot of great guards who do great work from their position, but tell us about your own play today. How would you assess it?
“I reckon, as a team, we played well, which led to me getting open, and stuff like that. I’m not sure what to say about my own game, but as a team we played well…thought not for the full 40 minutes, so we’ll work on that.”
How long have you been here in the States? Are you getting acclimated?
“About two or three weeks…it’s fun. It’s going good. Just gotta adapt to the food.” (smiling)
Do you have a favorite food, or least favorite?
“My favorite, so far, is the steak and cheese. That’s pretty nice…yeah, I actually had some in Pittsburgh.”
What do you feel you need to work on individually?
“Um…everything. I think…mostly my offensive game, but I always [try to work on] defense.”
Do you have the ability to shoot from the outside?
“Yeah, it’s just the lack of confidence in my shooting that I struggle with.”
Do you know a lot about the way the game is played in the Big East Conference?
There’s a lot of physical play…
“That’s good.” (smiling)
What’s the difference between the game here and in New Zealand?
“Here the pace is much faster, and it’s more physical. And there’s a ton of athletic people. It can get crazy.”
You seem like a really good passer. Is that part of your game?
“Yeah…sometimes.” (laughs while looking at head coach Ryan Hurd, who looks on) “I think so, yeah.”
Have you talked to Coach Dixon recently, and if so, what did you guys talk about?
“Just about games they’ve been going to recently, and what they need to work on.”
What was The Pete like on Saturday?
“That was fun. It was amazing. It was quite intimidating, just because they’re crazy, and knowing I have to play in front of them next year.”
Are you still getting accustomed to all the attention?
“Yeah, definitely. I just find it weird. You know, I’m not used to this. Usually, it’s only two people, or one person with a notepad, not cameras and microphones.” (laughter)
Have you gotten along well with your teammates at Notre Dame Prep?
“They’ve supported me through everything. They’re awesome. Really good teammates.”
Do you have a roommate?
“No, I don’t. It’s quite lonely at night.” (laughter)
Your team plays a lot of man-to-man. Are you used to that?
“No, mostly [we played] zone in New Zealand. We don’t usually play man, so I need to work on my footwork on defense, and stuff like that.”
Are you the type of player who goes really hard in practice?
“I like to. I get lazy sometimes, so I need a boot up the bum from my coach.” (laughs and looks at Hurd again, smiling) “But that’s all right.”
Are your guitar-playing skills a hit with your teammates?
“I’m all right. [At least] I don’t have to sing.” (smiling)
What are your impressions of the town itself, and the school?
“I think the whole city’s awesome…especially when you come out of that tunnel…that’s mean. It’s a nice view.”
We like to watch your games, and talk amongst ourselves about what we think you can bring to Pitt. But what do you think you can bring? What’s your best quality?
“Just hard work. That’s pretty much it. I haven’t thought about it too much, but I just know that, when I go there, I’m going to perform my best.”
What is your range right now? What would you like it to be?
“It’s…average. I can shoot from mid-range.”
Are you comfortable shooting three-point shots?
“Yeah…just like Dirk [Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks].”
If there’s an NBA player you look up to, would he be it?
“Yeah. Him, and Dwight Howard, too.”
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)