As I said. A lot more links to get through before tomorrow’s exhibition game against IUP.
Hey, here’s something that isn’t the complete focus of Pitt’s upcoming season from a media coverage perspective. More pieces on Steven Adams.
Starting with the lists. Even though he hasn’t played a minute of college basketball yet, Steven Adams came in at#22 on CBSSports.com list of top 50 big men.
ESPN.com recruiting also tabbed Steven Adams as the top incoming player to the Big East (Insider subs.):
Jamie Dixon’s club could have used the New Zealand Sensation last season. Khem Birch’s mid-semester transfer left the Panthers undermanned in the middle, to say the least, and they’ve been anxiously awaiting Adams’ arrival ever since. Although he won’t be ready to play a starring role from day one, Adams will be ready to make contributions on both ends of the floor.
Offensively, he’ll be a game-ready finisher right away and has the jump hook to become an increasingly dangerous threat on the block. Defensively, he’ll replace the shot-blocking presence that Birch was supposed to be while also providing a dependable rebounding presence.
As an added bonus, they list the top-5 recruits in the Big East for next year.
Mike Young is on that list.
After leaving his hometown of Pittsburgh after his freshman year to pursue high school basketball on a bigger stage in New Jersey, Young is now headed back home to play his college ball. The 6-foot-8 big man committed to Dixon less than a week after the summer evaluation period had come to an end, and had his choice of high-major suitors at that point. He’s a guy who should fit well into Pittsburgh’s smashmouth system on the interior while also showing the offensive potential to go inside-out, depending on his matchup.
ESPN.com moved Young up to #54 in their overall ranking of the top-100 players after the summer AAU circuit.
But back to Steven Adams. From yet another list. (They aren’t Bleacher Report slide shows, but you can’t tell me the rising number of lists all over the place don’t have a connection. Yes people want the lists but the media companies want eyeballs and know that lists generate eyeballs and pageviews. /end side rant) This one on things to watch in the Big East.
5. Is Steven Adams for real?
Last season, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon brought in No. 1-ranked center Khem Birch. That lasted all of a few weeks. Soon, Birch was vocally complaining about not getting along with teammates (or something like that; the whole thing was kind of confusing) and sealing a transfer to UNLV, where he is likely to form one of the nation’s best frontcourts in 2012–13. As Pitt struggled throughout the season, the Birch departure looked like it could have been a long-term killer.
Enter New Zealand native (and borderline Adam Morrison look-alike) Adams, who is billed as “maybe the dominant defensive player in the Class of 2012” by ESPN’s recruiting scouting report.
“For a 7–0 player, Adams possesses unusual athleticism, excellent basketball body and a relatively high motor for a young player,” the scouts write. “He has broad shoulders, long arms, quick feet and excellent hands for a big man.”
The only problem? He’s not all that polished around the rim.
Even so, the addition of an active, athletic 7-footer to a program that always, always rebounds on the offensive end — even when it has the ever-so-rare bad season, like 2011-12 — is a fearsome sight indeed. Combined with Dixon’s returning assets and fellow signee James Robinson, the No. 4-ranked point guard, the Panthers have a chance to leave a mark on this league by the time the regular season is through.
Everyone is sleeping on Pittsburgh. Let’s see if that’s a mistake.
Coach Dixon had been trying to downplay Adams a little. Or at least trying to reduce the hype around him. Pointing out that he has lots of room for improvement and the raw offensive ability. And yet…
“We really want to get the ball inside,” Dixon said. “That’s something we’ve really emphasized this summer and fall. We have to be able to play out of inside touches, whether we’re scoring or kicking it back out. We want to go inside-out. It’s always been our strength. We need to develop our inside game early in the season and continue to grow with it.”
[Dante] Taylor will be in the mix again for playing time at center, but the linchpin for Dixon’s plans is Adams, who has gained the respect of his teammates during his brief time on campus.
“Steven is a big guy,” junior small forward Lamar Patterson said. “He has a big frame, he’s a hard worker, and he’s skilled. It’s benefitting our other guys to go against that type of player every single day, battling and fighting and getting better. There aren’t that many guys who have Steve’s height and body in this league. When game time actually comes, they won’t be playing guys as good as Steve, and it’ll be a lot easier for them. Once they get things going, it will open things up for the guards and me being able to create for our shooters. It will complete our game. It will make us better all around.”
Taylor, who has battled back problems the past three seasons, said he is healthier than he has ever been at Pitt and hopes to become a more productive offensive player. The same goes for junior forward Talib Zanna, who averaged 6.3 points per game last season when he was a part-time starter at center and power forward.
“This year we’re emphasizing it,” Taylor said. “It will definitely help us out. Me and Steve and Talib, we’ve been having great practices playing against each other. It will help our offense out in terms of spacing and having us move around.”
There’s more in the article with Woodall raving about Adams. If you want the biggest difference from last year to this year. Last year had lots of people outside the program talking about Khem Birch and his potential impact. This year while people outside the program are talking up Adams, the teammates and coaches inside Pitt are unable to contain their enthusiasm and excitement at what Adams can mean for the team.
For example, after the Blue-Gold scrimmage last Sunday.
“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.”
“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.”
Adams’ personality probably helped in having his teammates speak well of him, but their obvious excitement for what he brings on the court and how he will help them win games is blatantly apparent.
“In my opinion, he’s just as good as the player of the year in this conference as a freshman,” Woodall said. “He doesn’t understand that. He’s just out there playing his game, playing hard. That’s what makes him an elite player.”
And other players and coaches are aware of him.
Notre Dame center Jack Cooley, named first-team all-Big East, competed against Adams at an Adidas camp this summer. He came away impressed.
“When I first saw him, I remember joking with him that’s he’s too big of a dude,” Cooley said. “I asked him what farm they grew him on overseas. He’s very strong, very physical. He’s got a pretty good skill set on offense and he’s a really good defender. It’s going to be exciting playing against him.”
Cooley’s coach, Mike Brey, never has seen Adams play, but he will make a point of doing so when the Panthers play non-conference games in November and December.
“I’ll be tuned into Pitt’s early season games when they’re on TV because I want to get a look at this guy,” Brey said. “Whenever you have a guy who wasn’t on the recruiting circuit, you kind of want to tune in. ‘What’s the big fella doing?’ And, if he’s really good, you lose sleep. Or have a drink. One or the other.”
The other advantage with Adams, is that he is a center. He may have a bit of range to his shooting, but he is and wants to play around the basket. He doesn’t picture himself as a power forward or some sort of wing player. He knows what he is, and where he should be playing. Something that creates a bit of flexibility for the rest of the team.
Patterson and Moore can play either of the forward positions with Adams out there. Zanna is set to go at forward and occasionally center. Even Dante Taylor will get some time at power forward.
Dixon seems excited about Pitt’s prospects at center, where senior Dante Taylor will team with freshman Steven Adams and sometimes alongside him. “Dante’s been scoring a lot in practice, so we think between the two of them we can get some interior scoring,” Dixon said.
Now if he can just play enough defense.