Kiwi basketballer Steven Adams is heading to the NBA.
The University of Pittsburgh freshman released a statement today saying that after weighing up his options, he believed it was in his best interest to declare for the draft.
"In discussing options with my family and Coach Dixon, I feel that it is in my best interest to declare for the NBA draft.
"I want to thank everyone at Pitt including my teammates, coaching staff, the administration and the fans who have all supported me over the last year."
His coach, Jamie Dixon, added: "After talking with Steven and his family, we fully support him in this decision. We support him in choosing to pursue his dream and in having the opportunity to provide for his family back in New Zealand. We will continue to stay involved in the process and he will always be a part of the Pitt basketball family."
The 2.13m (seven foot) Adams had a quiet season with the Panthers, averaging 7.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and two blocks per game but has always been predicted as a future NBA star due to his size and athleticism.
It is quite the about face from the younger brother of double Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams, who as recently as two weeks ago insisted he would return to college.
After his side was knocked out of the NCAA tournament at the first hurdle, Adams brushed off rumours of an NBA move.
"I'm definitely coming back," he told media. "I don't know why you guys keep asking that question. I'm definitely coming back."
Despite not quite living up to expectation in his rookie season in the States, analysts still predict Adams will be a first round pick in this year's NBA draft.
Only two New Zealanders have ever played in the NBA, most notably Sean Marks who enjoyed an 11-year career in the league mostly as a back-up centre. He won an NBA championship in 2005 with the San Antonio Spurs. He is now director of basketball operations at the Spurs and general manager of their D-League affiliate the Austin Toros.
Kirk Penney also made the league but had little success in short stints with the LA Clippers and Miami Heat.
Adams is currently predicted to go at number 19 on draftexpress.com's mock draft. He has been rated as high as number six.
The 19-year-old can still return to Pittsburgh if he pulls out of the draft before April 28, provided he does not sign with an agent.
The NBA draft is set for June 27 at New York's Madison Square Garden.
- © Fairfax NZ News