The American hype around Steven Adams is no load of hot air, says veteran Tall Black Phill Jones, who is confident the teenager can make it big in the NBA.
The Scots College seven-footer had the keyboards of various US basketball scribes smoking after his just-completed stint at the adidas Nations camp in Los Angeles. After four games for Team Asia in which he averaged 22 points and 17 rebounds, Adams was tipped by one writer to be a top-five pick on the 2013 NBA draft.
Jones has hung up his black singlet after a 16-year international career but watched the 18-year-old at close range when playing for Nelson against Wellington Saints in this year's National League.
"Athletically and physically he has the body that they want in the NBA. He's a great athlete; he's very mobile and he's got good hands," Jones said.
"And having talked to Pero [Cameron, Saints coach], he has pretty good knowledge of the game and he picks up things pretty quick.
"They are all attributes that are going to get him to the NBA. As long as he knuckles down and works hard, I'd be very surprised if he didn't make it."
Jones said the scary thing was the fact that Adams was still growing.
"At the moment he's pretty skilled and he's pretty tough but he's only going to get tougher. He's still a little bit slight and doesn't have a huge build but he has real great potential looking at his family.
"They are pretty solid people and very good athletes [his half-sister is Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams].
"Once he grows into his body he's going to be extremely tough to stop. If he can pack on a few more pounds he can be a real force."
Sean Marks, a centre like Adams, was the first New Zealander to crack the NBA, in 1998, and his career in the top flight spanned over a decade.
Jones, a former team-mate of Marks', said Adams probably had more to offer on court.
"Sean was a freak athlete. He could really get off the floor for his size, and watching Steve, he's another really good athlete.
"Steve has a lot of upside to him. He seems very mobile and he has the ability to put the ball on the floor and his shot is very good. That was something that Sean really had to work on, but he brought other things; he was a great athlete and shot blocker and had a really good college career which helped him get to where he got."
After completing his year at Scots College, Adams is set to attend Notre Dame Prep to gain American high school experience before he becomes eligible to play the 2012-13 college season for the University of Pittsburgh.
Aran Smith, of nbadraft.net, rated Adams the "No1 international prospect out there", while ESPN television analyst Sean Farnham, a former UCLA player, was equally impressed.
"If the kid played in the US, without question he would be in the discussion with the best players in the country. He's going to be a star in college. A bona fide star. He'll step right in from day one and make an impact."
- © Fairfax NZ News