Kiwis' stocks growing in American game

Columba College’s Amelia Loudon (11) dribbles the ball next to Steven Adams at yesterday’s camp at the Edgar Centre. Photos: Peter McIntosh
Columba College’s Amelia Loudon (11) dribbles the ball next to Steven Adams at yesterday’s camp at the Edgar Centre. Photos: Peter McIntosh
Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil Danyon Ashcroft (14) takes the ball to the hoop against Steven Adams at yesterday’s camp at the Edgar Centre.
Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil Danyon Ashcroft (14) takes the ball to the hoop against Steven Adams at yesterday’s camp at the Edgar Centre.
Dunstan High School’s Joel Robertson (16) does a layup as Steven Adams comes across to block him during yesterday’s camp at the Edgar Centre.
Dunstan High School’s Joel Robertson (16) does a layup as Steven Adams comes across to block him during yesterday’s camp at the Edgar Centre.

New Zealand’s greatest basketball player was in Dunedin yesterday, holding a camp for about 400 youngsters at the Edgar Centre. Jeff Cheshire asked Steven Adams about New Zealand’s place in the world of hoops and how more could follow in his footsteps.

Being a Kiwi is worth more in the world of basketball nowadays if Steven Adams' thoughts are anything to go by.

It is something 2.13m big man should know better than most.

The exposure New Zealand has received in the sport has grown immensely over the past decade.

Not only has the country's on-court reputation been given a boost, it has given the Americans a taste of those classic Kiwi traits.

The humble, hard-working ethos New Zealanders pride themselves on are major attractions to big time recruiters, Adams says.

The Oklahoma City Thunder centre has flown further than any Kiwi in the world of basketball.

However, he is merely the head of an ever growing list of New Zealanders plying their trade in the United States.

College coaches are increasingly looking to recruit top young Kiwi players.

For Adams, this was just the start of a continued awareness of what Kiwis had to offer.

''We're definitely on the radar, but I just want it to constantly expand,'' the 25-year-old said.

''We have a lot of talented kids here, but it's just the structures around them.

''That's the only thing that sets them back skill-wise, if we're only talking about basketball.

''But everyone's looking here because one thing about New Zealanders and Kiwis, we are humble and we work hard.

''We're great culture builders. That's why we're so attractive to them, because we're coachable.

''We just want to go over there and learn and we appreciate everything.

''So that's the main thing, from what I've heard from college coaches, that's one of their favourite things about Kiwis.''

Whether or not that would result in another NBA player is, of course, hard to say.

However, Adams said aiming to get young prospects to the NBA was skipping a step.

Getting them to college needed to be the primary goal.

Being a good player was key to that.

However, the education side needed to be the main focus and making that clearer was important.

''We're not pushing NBA players, that's not the goal, because now you're overlooking college.

''The education is the most important part if you want to go on this path, it really is.

''Without that you cannot start.

''You'll be a brilliant basketballer, but you need that [education] in order to start your professional career properly.

''So in terms of teaching them, I think the resources are there.

''It's just more the support and the focus and that they have a really clear mind of what they have to do, I think that will help them more.''

That was far from the focus yesterday, though.

Adams did his best to make his way around nine courts worth of children, taking groups through basketball drills and games.

The emphasis was more on enjoyment, rather than high performance.

''This camp here is all about just fun, just getting kids to come in, smile if they're having a bad week, that's what this is all about.''

Adams' Thunder begins its new season on October 17 against the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors.

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