Steven Adams delays his NBA draft move

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 10/02/2013
Steven Adams
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STANDING TALL: Kiwi Steven Adams defends against Delaware's Jamelle Hagins during the consolation game at the Preseason NIT tournament.

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Before the start of the US college basketball season, rising Kiwi star Steven Adams was tipped to spend just one year with the Pittsburgh Panthers, before declaring for the NBA draft.

But it now seems almost certain that he will return for at least another year at Pittsburgh, which former NBA player and ESPN college basketball analyst LaPhonso Ellis said would be a smart move.

"One more year of college development will be great for him. What it will help him with is his understanding of the American game, because it's so different.

"One more year in college will enhance his skill level and put him in a better situation to get drafted next year."

Ellis has been impressed with Adams' growth since the start of the season. He believed his game would keep evolving as he became more consistent with his play.

"He's better now than he was in November. Because of his work ethic, you'll continue to see him get better. I'm really excited about his future."

Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon is also pleased with Adams's progress over the past month and is targeting continued improvement over the back-end of the season.

The 2.13-metre (seven foot) centre made a quiet start to his first season of college basketball, but has been an important contributor in the new year for the Panthers.

Adams, 19, produced arguably his best game of the season in Tuesday's 56-46 home win over Seton Hall, grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds, while also adding eight points and two blocks.

That followed another strong showing in Pittsburgh's upset 65-55 victory over Syracuse last weekend, where he was effective at both ends of the floor, with eight points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes of action. Over his last four outings, Adams is averaging 8.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, which is up on his season averages of 6.9 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Pittsburgh, who sit fifth in the Big East standings with a 7-4 record (19-5 overall) will be looking to make it three wins on the trot when they travel to Cincinnati today.

Dixon said he always thought it would take time for Adams to adjust to the US college basketball system and fresh surroundings in Pittsburgh.

"He's getting better. He just hasn't played against strong, physical kids before.

"It's a whole new world for him."

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Dixon and the Pitt coaching staff have worked hard with Adams on rebounding the basketball with two hands, rather than one, which he had been doing at the start of the season.

It was no coincidence his rebounding numbers had risen steadily since ironing out that flaw in his game.

Pittsburgh have seven regular season games remaining before the Big East Championship tournament at New York's Madison Square Garden, from March 12-16.

The Panthers are also aiming to seal a spot for the NCAA division one tournament, which begins in late March, after failing to qualify last year.

Adams will be integral to Pittsburgh's fortunes over the final part of the season, and Dixon said they would like to see the Kiwi become more selfish offensively.

"I use that as a positive, because he's so unselfish.

"I think he would rather pass than shoot at this point.

"That's something that can be a positive, but something we've got to work with."

- Sunday Star Times

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