One size-20 step to Saints, giant leap for NBA

AIMING HIGH: Saints basketball recruit Steven Adams and team coach Pero Cameron.
KENT BLECHYNDEN/The Dominion Post
AIMING HIGH: Saints basketball recruit Steven Adams and team coach Pero Cameron.

Aged 17 and seven feet tall, Scots College schoolboy Steven Adams has taken his first size-20 step toward the NBA by joining the Wellington Saints.

The half-brother of Olympic shotput champion Valerie Adams, Steven will join a who's who of New Zealand basketball when he takes an NBL court this season.

Mark Dickel was 16 when he first played for Otago, while Kirk Penney (North Harbour) and Pero Cameron (Waikato) were both 17 when they hit the hardwood.

Adams, who has attracted the interest of NBA scouts, won't get paid a cent by the Saints because he has been offered a scholarship for Pittsburgh University next year.

But the opportunity for the apprentice to learn from a master like Cameron is priceless.

"I feel privileged to play for the Saints, honoured to be a part of the team as a development player," Adams said before a Saints scrimmage in Newtown.

"I need to get the experience before I go over to Pittsburgh."

Adams' tale, should it continue on its current path, will meet the classic rags-to-riches definition.

His father Sid – also Valerie's dad – died when he was 13 and his life started going off the rails after Adams fell in with a bad crowd in Rotorua.

But another half-brother, former Tall Black Warren Adams, intervened, moving him to Wellington and introducing him to personal trainer and good samaritan Blossom Cameron.

Cameron has given Adams life skills, while Saints legend Kenny McFadden has taken care of his basketball education.

Adams has dominated his peers both in New Zealand and in age-group tournaments in the United States, while Pittsburgh University coach Jamie Dixon – a former NBL player – has made several trips Down Under to keep an eye on his star recruit.

Adams was the MVP of last year's national under-19 championships, scoring 33 points and hauling in 23 rebounds as Wellington beat North Harbour in the final.

"I want to make the NBA, hard out," Adams said.

"If I don't, then the Euro League or something – one of the big money-making ones.

"I want to give back to the people that helped me along, Kenny and Blossom and my family in Rotorua, because they supported me a lot through all the years."

And of his famous half-sister?

"I hang out with her a bit, but she's often busy. I just see her as my sister, kind of annoying."

Saints coach Pero Cameron isn't one for hype but even he can't hide excitement at helping mould Adams' freakish natural abilities. "Steve's a wonderful talent and I can't wait to have him for the season.

"He's a true centre, legit, and at seven foot and 17, he's got it all ahead of him. Hopefully, we can prepare him for the big things that lie ahead of him. He's so athletic, very strong but lean, tall and he can run and jump.

"A lot of it is up to him but anything's possible, man – I mean, look at him."

Wellington hoops fans will get their first glimpse of Adams, who will help fill the void left by Nick Horvath, when the Saints' season tips off at home against Waikato Pistons on April 15.

The Dominion Post