Basketball: Our Downunder Thunder

By Reuben Bradley

Adams makes history as No 12 Draft pick by Oklahoma City

New Zealand has a new sporting superstar and later today the basketballer will begin a new life as an Oklahoma City resident.

Rotorua's Steven Adams is the toast of the country after being selected at No 12 by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2013 NBA Draft.

"It just feels like a dream, to be honest with you. I can't put it into words. It just feels weird," Adams said last night. "Excited to start working, really. It's just the beginning.

"I really wanted to go to Oklahoma City Thunder. It was an awesome feeling. The whole organisation is professional."

The 2.13m University of Pittsburgh centre was projected most likely as a number 11 or 12 pick in the lead up to the draft, but when number 11 Philadelphia quickly traded an existing player for number six pick Nerlens Noel, Adams' future began to firm up as a member of the Thunder.

It means instant riches for Adams, with his contract at Oklahoma estimated around US$1.7 million ($2.2 million).

But Adams insists he's not going to let fame and riches change him.

"My life is going to be the same. All I'm focused on is basketball. Ain't going to change anything. I think I'm pretty cool who I am," he said.

"I don't consider myself an NBA player yet. I just need to progress my game more and more, and then when somebody says 'hey, he's an NBA player', then I'll start saying yes."

Adams was supported at the venue by his long-time mentor Kenny McFadden, his two brothers Sid and Moses Beckham, and his manager Darren Matsubara.

"This is great for New Zealand. It's great history. First time any New Zealander walked across the stage and shook David Stern's [NBA commissioner] hands. It will open up the doors for some young New Zealanders coming through," said McFadden.

The sentiment is shared by Adams.

"In terms of basketball [in New Zealand], I'm hoping that will skyrocket. That's the main plan. Everybody's focused on rugby, they now have a different path to take and accomplish their goals, whether it be the NBA or whatever."

For his brothers it was a night of immense pride. "Looking up at that board and seeing my brother's name was unreal. Coming from New Zealand, Rotorua, you don't see that often. You don't see that ever," said Sid Adams.

Moses Beckham Adams said it was an incredible night among the stars of world basketball. "We're pretty overwhelmed. There will be a big hug and everything else, and give him a bit of cheek. That's how we do it."

Adams becomes only the second New Zealander chosen in the NBA Draft, following Sean Marks selection in 1998 at number 44 by the New York Knicks.

Marks was quickly traded to the Toronto Raptors, and went to play for that team, and Miami, San Antonio, Phoenix, New Orleans and Portland.

The only other New Zealander to get a look at the NBA first hand was Kirk Penney, who played a small number of games for the Heat and the Clippers, after narrowly missing the Draft in 2003.

Adams says he has to keep things simple as he begins his NBA career.

"All I'm trying to work on right now is rebounding, blocking shots, defence and running the lanes. All the base sort of stuff. From there I'll try to branch off or whatever. Whatever the coaches want."

Meanwhile, Canadian Anthony Bennett, picked in the top spot by the Cleveland Cavaliers, was a surprise. Almost every projection had either Nerlens Noel or Alex Len in the top spot.

Bennett has become the first Canadian selected at number one in the NBA Draft. "It's just crazy. Made history. I can't really complain about that. It's just like a long-time dream that I had since I first started playing basketball," said Bennett.

Victor Oladipo was chosen at number two by the Orlando Magic, while the number three pick was a hometown selection for the Washington Wizards, who chose Otto Porter from local university Georgetown.

"I'm really looking forward to it. They're in a rebuilding process. I'm just glad they chose me so I could be a part of that," says Oladipo.

• Adams' selection capped a great day for the family with sister Valerie throwing a season's best 20.88m shot put at the World Challenge in the Czech Republic. The throw is the longest outdoor performance this year, improving the previous best - set by Adams at the New Zealand champs - of 20.37m, more than half a metre and further than the double Olympic gold medallist threw to win at the London Olympic Games.

- NZ Herald

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