NEW YORK -- The hype continues to build for Pitt freshman center Steven Adams, who was named Big East preseason rookie of the year Wednesday in a poll of the league's coaches at Big East media day. Adams is the first Pitt player to win the honor since Vonteego Cummings in 1995.
Senior point guard Tray Woodall doesn't expect this will be the last time Adams earns some Big East hardware. Woodall said he wouldn't be surprised if the 7-footer from New Zealand is the Big East player of the year when the conference and its teams reconvene here for the Big East tournament in March.
"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."
Adams is a unique recruit because he hasn't been seen by many of the coaches who will be attempting to devise game plans to stop him this season. He played in his native New Zealand until December before enrolling at Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts for a few months last winter.
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."
Pitt was picked to finish sixth in a preseason poll of Big East coaches. Louisville was a unanimous selection to win the conference championship. The Cardinals were followed by Syracuse, Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Georgetown.
Getting picked sixth after a 5-13 Big East record is a sign of respect for the Panthers, who had made 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances before missing last season.
"Going off where we were last year, it's kind of a surprise," senior center Dante Taylor said. "We thank them for it, but we know we have a lot of work to do. We know what type of team we are. We know how hard we worked over the offseason. We know we're a different team than last year.
"We're just anxious to prove to everybody that we're different, that we're more mature and a lot better than last year."
No Pitt players were named all-Big East first- or second-team, but Woodall received honorable mention. Woodall missed 10 games in the middle of last season while recovering from a sports hernia and finished the season averaging 11.7 points and 6.1 assists per game.
"I view it as an honor to have my name up there," Woodall said. "But it doesn't matter. It's all about the team."
Louisville guard Peyton Siva is the Big East preseason player of the year. He is joined on the Big East preseason first-team by teammate Gorgui Dieng, Sean Kilpatrick of Cincinnati, Otto Porter of Georgetown, Vincent Council of Providence and Cooley.
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1.