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Pitt's Adams one of NBA Draft's 'high risers'

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 7:24 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt center Steven Adams reaches for a rebound against Cincinnati at Petersen Events Center on Dec. 31, 2012. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Pitt's Steven Adams listens during a news conference in advance of the NBA Draft on Wednesday, June 26, 2013.

Before Steven Adams left for the NBA pre-draft combine last month, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon told him scouts would be impressed with his skills, understanding of the game and, most of all, his size.

The 7-foot, 255-pound Adams was not only one of the tallest players there but, at 19, one of the youngest. Those factors almost assure him of being a first-round pick in Thursday's NBA Draft in Brooklyn.

“When you're drafting, those are two good things to have — probably the two most important things to have for you,” Dixon said. “They're looking at upside. They're looking at potential. They're looking at where he's going to be four years from now. We had him four months. They'll have him for four years. That's the reality of it. I think we all knew this was a very strong possibility.”

ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford called Adams, who left Pitt after his freshman season, one of the “high-risers” and projects him as a lottery pick. Adams would be the first Pitt player selected in the first round under Dixon and the first drafted in the first round since Vonteego Cummings in 1999.

Another 7-footer with local ties also hopes to hear his name called: Zeke Marshall of McKeesport, who averaged 13.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.6 blocks as a senior at Akron.

Ford said Adams could go as high as No. 7 to Sacramento but predicted Oklahoma City will pick him 12th.

“People have loved his workouts. They've loved his interviews. They've loved him as a person,” Ford said. “He's shown more skill than he showed at Pittsburgh shooting the basketball, and then he's got a body that's ready-made to be an NBA center. If you're going to build an NBA center, you'd build it to look a little bit like Steven Adams.”

Ford also labeled Adams a risk, given that his potential outweighs his production. Adams averaged 7.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and two blocked shots but had 13 points and 11 rebounds against Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament.

“If you watch Steven Adams in his first four or five games at Pittsburgh, it was a horror show. I mean, it was a, ‘Oh, my goodness. This is guy is looking like he's never played organized basketball before in his life,' ” Ford said. “The first time I scouted him this season, I wrote down in my notebook, ‘years away; come back and look at him again as a junior.' I was just shocked at how raw he was.

“But then I caught Pittsburgh towards the end of the season in the Big East, and he looked like a different player to me. He looked like he was getting it. He was more aggressive defensively. By the Big East Tournament, I really started to see what scouts had seen from him in high school, and that shows intelligence and that he's able to pick up the game.”

Dixon is quick to note that Adams, a native of New Zealand, went from playing club ball to arguably the best conference in college basketball.

“No kid has really ever made as big of a jump as he did, coming from New Zealand to play in the Big East,” Dixon said. “I tried to explain it to NBA guys, but I don't think they still even grasp how big of a jump he made to come from that level out there to the Big East.

“You saw him get better as the year went on. That's what 19-year-old big guys do: They get better. Hopefully, he goes to a team with a history of developing guys.”

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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