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Top freshman impresses in Pitt scrimmage

| Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, 7:48 p.m.
Pitt freshman center Steven Adams shoots over Malcolm Gilbert during an intersquad scrimmage on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, at Petersen Events Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt center Steven Adams pulls down a rebound during a scrimmage Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, at Petersen Events Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review))
Pitt point guard Tray Woodall plays during an intrasquad scrimmage on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, at Petersen Events Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt point guard Tray Woodall plays during a scrimmage Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, at Petersen Events Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Pitt freshman center Steven Adams shoots over Malcolm Gilbert during an intrasquad scrimmage on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, at Petersen Events Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt freshman center Steven Adams dunks on Malcolm Gilbert during an intrasquad scrimmage on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, at Petersen Events Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

He dropped in a baby hook from the right block the first time he touched the ball. A 3-point attempt from the top of the key later barely rimmed out, but it showed shooting range not generally associated with 7-footers.

He flushed a missed shot in the second half, coming from the opposite block to record a dunk that drew “oohs” from the sparse crowd at Petersen Events Center.

Steven Adams looked as good as advertised in helping the Blue beat the Gold, 65-55, in an intrasquad scrimmage Sunday. The caveats to the sinewy center's showing: Pitt is less than a week into practice, and scrimmages are one thing while Big East games are quite another.

Adams appears to have the polish to give Pitt a scoring threat from the post and to allow the Panthers to play inside out as they try to bounce back from a disappointing 22-17 season.

“The best thing is he's worked so hard, and it's going to come defensively,” coach Jamie Dixon said of the prized freshman from New Zealand. “He has a good feel, good hands and (is) a pretty good passer, too.”

Adams recorded the only double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He looked comfortable catching the ball in the post and passing it from inside, and he made baskets with each hand while shooting 7 of 11 from the field.

Pitt didn't make Adams available to reporters after the game, but his teammates had plenty to say.

“When he's on the court, the game comes a lot more easy to me and other players because we know we have him to protect us on defense,” freshman guard James Robinson said. “And (on) offense, we can get it in down low, and he's pretty much going to make it every time.”

Robinson also shined Sunday, scoring 15 points and handing out five assists against just one turnover. Redshirt senior forward Talib Zanna made all seven of his shots for the Blue team, scoring a game-high 20 points.

But neither figures to match Adams' impact this season. The 7-foot, 250-pounder surprised even Dixon with how much he has added to his offensive repertoire since playing in the Pittsburgh Pro-Am league this summer.

Adams' defense appears to be lagging behind his offense, which is to be expected of a freshman. And he still has to work on keeping the ball above his head and away from where quick-handed guards can swipe at it.

But there's no denying the player nicknamed the “Kiwi Phenom” possesses a combination that coaches love: the physical maturity and skills to play right away and the upside to improve.

“He's one of the best big men I've played with right now,” junior forward J.J. Moore said. “He just opens up the floor for us. If you throw it in the post, guys are going to come and double him, and that's just going to up the floor more for us.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com.

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