If I'm a dick, NZ looks bad, says Steven Adams
Steven Adams takes being a role model very seriously, even if sometimes you wouldn't know it from his laid-back demeanour.
The recently turned 21-year-old Kiwi NBA star was in Auckland today, along with All Blacks Liam Messam, Julian Savea, Aaron Smith and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, mentoring a hand-picked selection of New Zealand's elite young athletes at the inaugural Powerade Breakthrough Academy.
Eleven athletes in total, ranging in ages from 14 to 24 and representing an array of codes, mixed with Adams and the All Blacks for the best part of a day in a programme designed to prepare them for the next level of competition.
Adams, who's preparing for his second season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, said he was honoured to help shape a group of athletes he's not that far removed from.
"They're good kids, they work really hard and they're on the right track," Adams told Fairfax Media in an exclusive interview. "Any sort of advice I can give them, whether it helps them or not, I'm honoured to be that person they've asked for help from."
The 2.13m centre who was rated among the top four rookies of the 2013-14 NBA season said being a role model was not only something he had thought a lot about, but something that carried a large degree of responsibility. Naturally, he had a delightfully quaint way of relating that.
"It started a long time ago really being a role model," said Adams who had the NBA on his radar ever since emerging as a super-sized teenage phenom from Kenny McFadden's Wellington academy.
"I've tried not to grow up too fast. There are going to be some times I'm like, you know, immature. But you try to keep that professional approach, and try to do the right thing which is what all athletes do to make sure they reflect well on whatever, like from their town.
"For me once I go out there to America I'm pretty much representing all of New Zealand because most people haven't met New Zealand people, so I have to take that into consideration. If I'm like a dick, then they're like New Zealand guys are dicks. If you've just got a normal Kiwi attitude then they're fine with it. That's one of the key things."
Adams' uniquely Kiwi view on the NBA was a feature of his standout rookie year with the Thunder, and clearly captivated an American media who had never seen anything quite like the straight-talking kid from Rotorua by way of Wellington.
"It's just who I am," shrugs Adams who's sitting out the Tall Blacks' World Cup campaign to concentrate on his NBA commitments. "I don't want to be like some drilled kinda media guy who says all the right things. I don't even know what the right things are. I just say whatever comes to my mind."
It's a sound policy, and one the aspiring athletes, picked from more than 250 applicants, would be wise to take on board.
Adams, for the record, is knuckling down on an off-season that's firstly about recovery and then about taking some fairly focused steps on returning to the Thunder an improved player for his second season.
It's all about working hard, keeping things simple and listening to his coaches. In other words, more of the same.
"It's just whatever the Thunder says, man, whatever they want I try and do it. It's a secret - I can't let you in on it."
For the young athletes who dream of one day getting to where Adams now resides, it's a secret they want in on.
What did you make of the Tall Blacks' World Cup campaign?