Steven Adams wants to help his family

AIMING HIGH: Steve Adams practises at Kilbirnie's ASB Centre.
AIMING HIGH: Steve Adams practises at Kilbirnie's ASB Centre.

Nineteen is pretty young to take on the burden as family provider.

But then again, Steve Adams is not your average 19-year-old.

The 2.13m giant with an even larger personality says there is an easy explanation for his basketball U-turn, declaring for the 2013 NBA draft instead of returning for a second year at the University of Pittsburgh.

BIG POTENTIAL: Steven Adams, brother of Valerie, is hoping to forge a career for himself in the NBA.
BIG POTENTIAL: Steven Adams, brother of Valerie, is hoping to forge a career for himself in the NBA.

Adams came home from the United States to see his family in Rotorua and didn't like what he found.

"I don't like seeing them struggle. It's quite sad to see your family struggle, you know what I'm saying," said Adams, who is now back under Kenny McFadden's wing for a training stint in Wellington.

"I don't want to see that any more."

So, all going well, Adams will live up to his first-round billing in June and be drafted by an NBA team.

That would mean the prospect of an initial $1.3 million salary which should be enough to put some food on the table.

Adams is vague when asked which family members he wants to help out.

His father, Sid, died when he was 13 and his mother wasn't around much.

Adams is reportedly the youngest of Sid's 18 children with five different women, and double Olympic shotput champion Valerie is a half-sister.

He was rescued from Rotorua gang life in 2008 by half-brother Warren, and moved to Wellington to live with caregiver and "fairy godmother," Blossom Cameron.

And now he wants to give back.

"I went back to Rotorua and talked with my family and stuff, just to see the position that they're in.

"I thought, you know what, it's time for me to help my family. There's certain family members who I feel need a bit more help than the others.

"So I'm just concentrating on them, really. That's going to be confidential, bro. But I'm just close with the Rotorua ones."

Adams balks at the suggestion that his plans are unusually generous for a 19-year-old.

"It's just like everyone else going to college for four years or whatever, getting a degree so they can eventually help their family. So I'm just doing it in a different way, on a different path. That's been the plan ever since I started off, just to help my family financially."

Adams had a solid, rather than spectacular, freshman season at Pitt but he believes he's "defintely" ready for the NBA.

He's not fussed about a possible destination, although after experiencing Pittsburgh's winter a different climate would be preferable.

"I'm sick of this cold, I'm so sick of snow, bro, so hopefully somewhere warm. But I just want to get the best training possible, really. It's just such a great opportunity so I want to make the most of it."

If he takes an NBA court, Adams would join Sean Marks and Kirk Penney on an exclusive list of New Zealanders to play on basketball's biggest stage.

He plans to pick their brains. "I want to talk to them to see what's up and how they liked it or whatever."

Adams says he will probably spend another week or so in New Zealand before returning to the United States to start preparing for the draft.

He hasn't yet got an agent and will leave the off-court decisions in the hands of his mentor McFadden, the Wellington Saints legend turned coach.

"I'm just ready to work, man. I'll do whatever I can to make sure I excel as a player. The NBA, whether I do get drafted or not, I just want to continually progress. This [declaring for the draft] was up there with one of my biggest decisions. But I think it's going to work out well."

Not everyone is quite so certain, with NZ Breakers centre Alex Pledger among those believing the step is too big, too soon.

Adams is blissfully unaware of that outside noise, although he does have a message to Pittsburgh's basketball community.

"I honestly can't thank Pitt enough. Just for teaching me, off the court as well. It was awesome, team-mates were cool, coaches were cool and the fans were mean as."

Adams might not be completely lost to the Pittsburgh area, with his girlfriend Kayla Kiriau, a talented Kiwi basketballer, considering transferring to attend college there.

"I haven't talked to her about it but apparently she is."

The Dominion Post