Steven Adams is simply Thunder-struck
Throughout the prolonged pre-draft courtship process, Steven Adams pretended he didn't care which NBA team called his name.
Of course that was a necessary charade so to not burn bridges; each and every one of the starry-eyed prospects would have gone to sleep dreaming of a desired destination.
For Adams, that was the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the dream came true in New York yesterday when the Western Conference powerhouse selected him at No 12, the first time a Kiwi has been picked in the first round.
"I've always wanted to be a Thunder, from the start of the workouts," said Adams, who is set to become the third New Zealander to play in the NBA.
"The Thunder was definitely the one. They were so professional. All the coaches in there were real good people and they knew a lot about basketball. All they cared about was just getting better, progressing and reaching towards the championship. Their programme is really, really good."
Star team-mates Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka were quick to offer their welcomes on Twitter and Adams could not have asked for a better fit.
The Thunder rival the San Antonio Spurs for their reputation as a well-run organisation from top to bottom and will view Adams as a project.
The 2.13m centre only had a moderately successful freshman season at the University of Pittsburgh and is likely to spend significant time in the D-League before he is allowed to plonk his size 19 shoes on an NBA court.
But yesterday was a time for celebration, the culmination of a remarkable rise for the self described "hori as" teenager from Rotorua.
Two people in particular should take a bow; caregiver Blossom Cameron and mentor/coach Kenny McFadden.
Neither deviated from their steadfast belief that Adams would make the grade, with McFadden repeatedly singling out his work ethic - rather than size and athleticism - as his greatest asset.
Not since the Tall Blacks' giantkilling run at the 2002 world championships has basketball in New Zealand enjoyed such a day in the sun.
Adams hoped his success would inspire folk back home.
"I just want to show that there's another path in sports instead of rugby. I'm hoping this will help the programme, and Americans will start looking at New Zealand as a place to find basketball players."
Reaction from Thunder fans and media was mixed.
Writing for dailythunder.com, NBA blogger Royce Young said predictions of Adams being a draft "bust" were unfair.
"His measurables are off the chart, his athleticism is crazy, his size is terrific and his accent is awesome," Young wrote.
"He's raw, he needs time, he needs work. The first time he gets sent to the D-League, fans are going to roll their eyes and declare the pick wasted. News flash here: He's not going to step in and start 82 games and average a double-double. The Thunder believe patience pays off, and in a lot of ways, they've been proven right."
The evidence of that is Ibaka, born in Congo before moving to Spain, who was picked at No 24 by the Thunder in 2008.
Like Adams, the 2.08m Ibaka was a raw athlete but has matured into one of the best defenders in the league.
In time, they could form a terrifying tandem.
"I'm going to go straight to Ibaka and try to study him first and see how he moves around defensively," Adams said.
"All I'm trying to work on right now is rebounding, blocking shots, defence and running the lanes. All the base sort of stuff. From there I'll try to branch off or whatever. Whatever the coaches want."