Less than a year ago, during the early stages of his freshman season at Pittsburgh, Steven Adams showed flashes of his seething potential, but looked a bit lost when faced with stiffer competition and a bigger stage.
In his first two games against ranked opponents — a mid-November loss to Michigan and a late December loss to Cincinnati, both on national television — Adams played a combined 34 minutes. He committed six fouls. He scored zero points. And scouts noticed.
“At the start of the season, it was a horror show,” ESPN analyst Chad Ford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette during a pre-Draft interview about Adams. “It looked like he had never played organized basketball before. The first time I scouted him, I remember I wrote down in my notes: Years away, come back and check on him as a junior.”
Ten months later, the one-time project is, well, still correctly labeled as an ongoing project. But instead of preparing for his sophomore season at Pitt, the New Zealand native is in his first training camp with the Oklahoma City Thunder, viewed by many as the team's future at the center position.
His sudden ascension from there to here is mostly related to substantial developments through the latter half of last season, which included a double-double in his only career NCAA Tournament game.
“I caught him in a Big East game at the end of the season, and he was a better player,” Ford told the Gazette. “By the Big East tournament, I was seeing what scouts were seeing when he was in high school.”
But from a pure basketball standpoint, Adams' biggest period of growth may have come in the past few months, starting the day after he was selected as the 12th overall pick.
With the sport now his profession, Adams immediately began daily workouts in OKC with a coaching staff known for its development of young talent.
“I feel like I've grown a lot,” Adams said. “Like quite a bit. Big thanks to the coaches here.”
And through two preseason games, the results couldn't have been much more encouraging.
Adams played a combined 32 minutes during the Thunder's recent overseas trip, compiling 13 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.