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Pitt freshman Adams declares for NBA Draft

| Tuesday, April 2, 2013, 8:36 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Steven Adams plays against Syracuse on Thursday, March 14, 2013, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Chaz Palla
PItt's Steven Adams pulls down a second half reboiund over Wichita State's Ron Baker duirng NCAA second round action Thurday, March 21, 2013, at EnergySolutions Arena, in Salt Lake City.

After repeatedly insisting that he would return to Pitt next season, Steven Adams is one and done.

The 7-foot freshman center from New Zealand declared Tuesday for the NBA Draft and intends to sign with an agent, a move that would forfeit his final three seasons of eligibility.

Adams announced his intentions in a statement released by the university.

“In discussing options with my family and Coach Dixon, I feel that it is in my best interest to declare for the NBA Draft,” Adams said. “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.”

A Pitt spokesman said Adams is out of the country and unavailable for further comment.

The NBA Draft is June 27 at Madison Square Garden. Adams has been projected by some as a first-round pick. Pitt hasn't had a player selected in the draft since DeJuan Blair and Sam Young were chosen in the second round in 2009.

Adams was named the Big East's preseason Rookie of the Year and was selected to the conference's All-Rookie team after averaging 7.2 points and leading the Panthers in blocked shots (65), rebounding (6.3) and field goal percentage (.571) in 32 starts.

Adams had two double-doubles, six double-figure scoring games and five 10-plus rebound games. His best performance came in his final game for the Panthers, when he had 13 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots in a 73-55 loss to Wichita State in an NCAA West Region second-round game in Salt Lake City.

Afterward, Adams was adamant that he would return to Pitt.

“I'm coming back,” Adams said while choking back tears. “I don't know why you guys keep asking that question, but I'm coming back.”

His decision to turn pro, coupled with sophomore Malcolm Gilbert's mid-season transfer to Fairfield, leaves Pitt without a returning center next season. Talib Zanna, a 6-foot-9 redshirt junior who started every game at power forward, appears to be the most likely replacement.

Pitt will join the Atlantic Coast Conference next season with six players returning from a team that finished 24-9, along with incoming recruits in guard Josh Newkirk and power forward Mike Young.

“After talking with Steven and his family, we fully support him in this decision,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said in a statement. “We support him in choosing to pursue his dreams 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.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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