Dixon's past leads Adams to Pitt family
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon played professional basketball in New Zealand for two years after graduating from Texas Christian University in 1987. Who knew 24 years later that his connections in the south Pacific would help him land one of the top prospects in the world.
Steven Adams, a 7-foot center out of Rotorua, New Zealand, is the highest-ranked recruit in school history, and he will come to the Panthers through some friendships Dixon formed in his abbreviated pro career.
Dixon played with one of Adams' brothers and against Kenny McFadden, one of the top coaches in New Zealand who played collegiately at Washington State. It was McFadden who alerted Dixon about Adams when Dixon was coaching the Team USA U-19 team in the FIBA World championships in 2009.
While coaching Team USA, Dixon wanted to check out Rob Lowe, a 6-11 center who played on New Zealand's U-19 team. But during lunch one day with McFadden, Dixon learned there was a better center prospect who was not on the team.
• Matchup: No. 10 Pitt (1-0) vs. Rider (0-1), 6 p.m. today, Petersen Events Center.
• TV, radio, Internet: Panthers Television, KDKA-FM (93.7), pittsburghpanthers.com.
• Pitt: Coming off 89-56 victory against Albany in season opener. ... Junior guard Tray Woodall scored a career-high 25 points and made five 3-pointers against the Great Danes. ... Senior guard Ashton Gibbs added 21 points and tied a career high with seven assists. ... Won opener for 15th consecutive season.
• Rider: Coming off 83-57 loss at Robert Morris. ... Anthony Myles led the Broncs with 20 points. ... Jeff Jones added 14. ... Coach Tommy Dempsey used six freshmen and two sophomores in his rotation. ... Outscored inside by Robert Morris, 28-14, and was outrebounded, 43-35.
• Hidden stat: Gibbs passed forward Jerome Lane on the Panthers' all-time scoring list Friday night and has 1,228 career points. Gibbs, in 22nd place, can pass Levance Fields tonight if he scores 20 points.
"I was looking at Rob Lowe [who now plays for Rick Majerus at Saint Louis], and Kenny said there's a kid who's going to be even better," Dixon recalled.
McFadden went on to explain that Adams was not on the team because the players have to pay to play on New Zealand's national team. Adams' family did not have the resources to allow him to play for the national team.
"I went down and saw him and have been going down there for three years as my frequent flyer miles attest," said Dixon, who said he traveled there five more times since the FIBA world championships. "We think he's going to be a pretty good player."
Adams comes from an athletic and interesting family. His father is English, his mother is Tongan. He has 17 brothers and sisters. All his brothers are 6-10 or taller, and his sisters are 6-5 or taller.
One of his sisters, Valerie Kasanita Vili-Adams, is a three-time world champion in the shot put and won the gold medal in the 2008 Olympic Games. Vili-Adams won the gold medal at the Beijing Games with a 21.07 meter throw.
Warren Adams played with Dixon in New Zealand. Following the death of their father when he was 13, Steven began to get into trouble and lived on the streets of Rotorua. Warren took him in off the streets and helped direct his energy into basketball.
Steven quickly developed into one of the top prospects in New Zealand with the help of Warren and some of their extended family, including legal guardian Blossom Cameron.
By the time Dixon got to see him when he was 15, Steven Adams was Division I material, although no other coaches in the states knew about him because he did not play in the FIBA world championships. Adams verbally committed to Pitt when he was 16.
After committing to Pitt, Adams became better known. The recruiting services in this country finally got to see him when he starred in the adidas nations tournament in August. Playing against the best high school competition this country and others have to offer,
Adams led all players in scoring and rebounding, averaging 22 points and 16.8 rebounds per game in the five-game tournament. He competed for Team Asia.
Adams scored 20 points and had 24 rebounds in one game against a team composed of American players called Team USA Red. In another game against Team USA Blue, Adams scored 37 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. Based on those performances, he has been referred to as the "Kiwi Phenom."
Adams will be the second 7-footer in Pitt history, but his game is far different from Aaron Gray, who played at Pitt from 2003-07 and plays in the NBA with the New Orleans Hornets. Gray was a dominating inside scoring and rebounding presence, but he lacked athleticism and was drafted in the second round.
Adams, ranked as the No. 4 college prospect by Rivals.com, has the whole package.
He is athletic and possesses the skill set of a forward and has the toughness to compete for rebounds. Those are the reasons Adams is projected by some to play only one season at Pitt before going on to play in the NBA.
NBAdraft.net projects he will be the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft. Adams is eligible for the 2012 draft seven months from now, but there has been no indication he will declare for it.
He is set to arrive at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., in January and compete in the competitive New England prep school league.
First Published November 13, 2011 12:00 am