Pitt's Adams still adjusting to American style of game

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Pitt freshman Steven Adams did not believe his teammates when they told him before the season that two first-half fouls would earn him a seat on the bench next to the coach. Sure enough, after Adams picked up two fouls in the opening minutes Nov. 17 against Oakland University, he was pulled from the game and did not play again until the second half.

Adams, a highly-touted 7-footer from New Zealand, was in disbelief.

"I guess I tested it," he said. "It was right. I was out. I should have stuck to what people said. That's all right. Now I know."

Some of the simplest things most freshmen take for granted, Adams is still learning.

The foul trouble is just one example of the many adjustments Adams is making in his first season of college basketball, his first season of American basketball. Many freshmen go through adjustments in making the transition from high school to college, but Adams is learning how to deal with things that are second-nature to American-born players.

For instance, playing in front of big crowds continues to be worrisome for him.

"In my first couple of games, and even now, I get nervous around them because I'm not used to it," he said. "I'm slowly starting to get used to the crowd being there."

There are some signs things are starting to slow down for Adams. He had the best game of his short college career Saturday night when he scored 16 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in Pitt's 89-40 victory against Bethune-Cookman. It was his first career double-double and only the third time he reached double figures in scoring.

"Early in the season I think he was thinking too much," junior forward Lamar Patterson said. "When you think too much it's hard to play your game. You worry about little stuff that doesn't even matter. It just doesn't even feel natural. But he's starting to not think as much and just play his game."

Adams agreed with Patterson's assessment.

"That's probably spot-on," Adams said. "I've been told that by all the coaches. I know I think too much. I'm just too nervous to make a mistake. I was playing like a robot, really."

For Patterson, the struggles Adams endured were not a surprise. He was a freshman three years ago and knows how hard it is to make the transition from high school to Pitt.

"This program is built to move you along gradually," Patterson said.

There are exceptions, of course. Freshman point guard James Robinson opened the season as a starter along with Adams and has been one of the top point guards in the Big East Conference. DeJuan Blair and Chris Taft also thrived early in their careers.

But Adams' path is more typical. He is averaging a pedestrian 7.1 points and six rebounds per game and more growing pains might remain ahead.

"That's what you expect making the transition from high school," Patterson said. "Everyone expected him to be ready right away, but it takes time. He's getting his feet wet. He's starting to get more comfortable out there and it's starting to show in his game.

"As a freshman, it's all mental. The college game can break you. You want to do well. It's change of speed. He has to get up to speed, but he's definitely getting there now."

Some of the other highly recruited freshmen playing are putting up better statistics than Adams, but this Kiwi is oblivious to that. When asked if he follows how Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel is doing, Adams remarked: "I just find it boring, searching up someone else's stuff. I go on Yahoo.com to watch for actual news, but I don't research any players, only unless I'm told to by the coach."

Coach Jamie Dixon has been consistent that Adams is maturing well within the time frame he set forth for him. Adams did not play with his back to the basket in New Zealand and is trying to learn the American style of basketball, which is more physical than the European style he played in New Zealand.

"We knew we'd have to work with him," Dixon said. "We're looking forward to seeing him grow and keep getting better."

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Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter: @rayfitt1.


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