Steven Adams might have stunned Pitt fans by declaring for the NBA Draft after insisting he would return, but Panthers coach Jamie Dixon knew better.
“I wouldn't say we were totally caught off-guard,” Dixon said Wednesday. “Unexpected might be too strong of a word.”
Dixon said he and Adams, a 7-foot freshman from New Zealand, had been discussing the decision for months.
Even though Adams indicated his preference was to remain in school, Dixon was aware that he might go pro to help provide for his family. Adams has 17 siblings.
“We felt it was the best thing for his family, to put his name in the draft,” Dixon said. “It's tough because I think he really loved it here, loved Pittsburgh, loved his teammates, so it's hard.”
Adams averaged 7.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and led the Panthers (24-9) in blocked shots (65) and field-goal percentage (.571) and was named to the Big East All-Rookie team.
Dixon said he spoke with NBA contacts throughout the season to gauge Adams' stock, and assured that “it wasn't a scramble” to see where Adams was projected and determined that he had first-round potential.
“The draft, especially on big guys, is based on where they are going to be down the road in development,” Dixon said. “I know that people may somehow question it, but at the end of the day, he's got the size and the athletic ability.”
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