Adams brings talent, charisma to Pitt hoops

By Brian Batko

About a month ago, one of Steven Adams’ favorite places to eat lunch in Oakland caught on… About a month ago, one of Steven Adams’ favorite places to eat lunch in Oakland caught on fire.

Very fond of its sushi, Adams wasn’t too happy when he received word of flames engulfing the Oishii Bento restaurant on Oakland Avenue.

If he hadn’t been on his way home from a workout session at the Trees Hall basketball courts at the time, Adams said he would have been more than willing to step in and help save one of his favorite eateries.

“Yo, that was my spot!” Adams said. “I would’ve went hero. I would’ve saved the sushi, I don’t know about anything else.”

One thing Pitt basketball fans are hoping is that Adams, the All-American incoming freshman center from Rotorua, New Zealand, will save the Panthers from missing the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive season.

Bringing a whole new dimension to one of the positions Pitt often lacked production from last season — the center spot — Adams is without a doubt one of the program’s most anticipated newcomers in recent memory.

Perhaps most encouraging for the consensus top-10 recruit, who has long been known for his imposing size and natural athleticism, is that his strength, skills and fundamentals are developing rapidly.

Now at 7 feet tall and 240 pounds, Adams has gained about 30 pounds of muscle since coming to the United States last winter to play for Notre Dame Academy in Worcester, Mass.

One of Adams’ future Pitt teammates said that the transformation of Adams’ body in such a short time span doesn’t shock him.

“I’m not surprised because he’s a hard worker,” Pitt junior forward Lamar Patterson said of Adams’ progression. “The way he works, it’s definitely going to show on the court.”

And show on the court it has. Adams, who has only been playing basketball for five years, is beginning to combine his physical gifts with some legitimate hoops acumen, including a hook shot that is nearly impossible to block around the basket.

“I wasn’t sure how fast I was going to improve, but I know I’m improving because I’m listening to the coaches,” Adams said. “But you know, whether it’s fast or not, as long as I learn it, that’s just the main thing.”

Through four games in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am summer league, Adams is averaging 12 points and 13 rebounds per contest with a number of blocks as well. Adams has been playing on team PGT Trucking with Patterson and other Pitt newcomers freshman James Robinson and transfer Trey Zeigler.

As for that hook shot, Adams, who will wear the number 13 on his jersey next season as a Panther, said it’s something he worked on a lot when he was in New Zealand and he confidently believes that he’s “got in the bag.”

It’s only July, but talking with Pitt’s potential starting center for the 2012-2013 campaign, you would think it was February and in the middle of the intense Big East regular season. Adams hasn’t gotten the memo that summer is typically reserved for individual improvement.

“I’m just playing, just doing what the coaches tell me, really. Run, post up, screen — I’m just trying to make good decisions for our team,” Adams said. “If I do something different and the team is doing something of its own, I’m going to kind of screw up the team. So I’m going to have to learn from them and just get into their system of gameplay.”

Adams is currently enrolled in online classes for the summer and spends most of his days at the Petersen Events Center training and studying.

Off the court, Adams is just as “goofy” as he is intense when he’s playing, his teammates say.

“He’s a good guy to be around,” Pitt junior forward Talib Zanna said. “He’s a fun guy, he likes having fun and just playing around and stuff. He’s a normal guy. He doesn’t have a big head or anything.”

Sophomore guard John Johnson agreed, saying there are “no issues, no egos, none of that” with his highly touted future teammate.

“[He’s] definitely down to earth. He’s a great kid,” Patterson said of Adams.

It’s safe to say that Adams feels the same way about his fellow Panthers, even though being one of the “new guys” usually leads to being the butt of jokes and playful mocking.

“It’s fun, though. We’re coming together as a team quite nicely,” Adams said. “They’re my brothers now, you know what I mean? It’s cool. They’ve got my back, I got their backs. It’s awesome.”