About five years ago, like most other New Zealanders, Sean Marks began hearing of this local basketball prodigy.
Steven Adams was his name. A big, strong, fluid teenager from a family full of athletes.
But unlike other New Zealanders, Marks had a unique perspective on the subject.
Growing up, Marks watched two of Adams' older brothers, Ralph and Warren, compete for the New Zealand national team.
Then, Marks became a basketball phenom himself, using his talent to secure a scholarship to the University of California, eventually leading to a spot in the second round of the 1998 NBA Draft.
He was the greatest Kiwi basketball player in history, the only one from his country to get drafted into the NBA.
That is, until Adams came along, developing enough to one-up Marks and become the first New Zealander ever selected in the first round when the Thunder took him 12th overall last June.
“I gave that (top spot) up,” Marks joked. “He's phenomenal and has a really bright future ahead of him. It's great. It's great for basketball in New Zealand.”
But, in a strange twist, it might not be so great for Marks' professional life.
After an 11-year NBA career, which included a title with the Spurs in 2005, Marks stayed on in San Antonio. For two years, he worked in the front office. And now, after Gregg Popovich's staff was raided for head coaches, Marks is in his first year as a Spurs assistant.
He's the big man coach, tasked with warming up Tim Duncan pregame and figuring out ways to neutralize opposing interior players during the game.
And that'll include Steven Adams on Saturday night, when his 21-4 Thunder visit the 21-5 Spurs.
But the two native New Zealanders don't let one of the NBA's best current rivalries get in the way of their developing friendship. Or, more accurately, it's more of a mentorship.
Marks and Adams have been in contact for the past few years, with Marks lending advice whenever necessary.
Adams is on a relatively unpaved path, holding the basketball hopes of his country on his shoulders. But if anyone can relate, it's Marks, who made the same around the world trek two decades ago, just with a bit less hype.
“He's a pretty good friend, a cool guy, man,” Adams said. “Him being a Kiwi and also played in the NBA, it's a big help just to have someone there to kind of talk to. But most of our conversations aren't about basketball. It's about New Zealand.”
But back in New Zealand, all they want to talk about is Steven Adams.
“You're removed from New Zealand, but there's so much interest back there that he'll always be followed in New Zealand,” Marks said. “It'll be great for basketball and great for the national team, having a guy over there who is really playing well. He's got the country on his shoulders. But they're big shoulders, so he can carry that.”