A little flavor has been added to the Panther lineup. Kiwi center Steve Adams gave Jamie Dixon a verbal commitment last week and is the first recruit of the 2012 class. Little is known about the 6’11″ New Zealand native but at only 16-years-old he has already posted an impressive resume. Adams was named MVP of the U-19 championships in New Zealand and also gained experience while playing in a U-17 FIBA qualifier last year–the same tournament in which Dixon coached the U.S.A. squad to a gold medal. During the FIBA qualifier he averaged eight rebounds and two blocks per-game as a 15-year-old facing competition at least two years older than him.
There is both good news and bad news that accompanies this commitment. The good news is that Dixon played professionally in New Zealand and surely still remains in contact with important basketball figures who could have tipped him off about a future star. He also coached the U-17 FIBA team in New Zealand last year and is probably one of the only coaches in college basketball to see prospects on that side of the world. Both of these factors could have led Dixon to believe that Adams will be a star and the Panthers should pounce on him as soon as possible. Also, the combination of Pitt desperately needing a true center and the possibility that Adams is still growing makes the signing look genius.
Now the bad news.
The fact is that Adams was on nobody’s radar. There have been no reports of other D-I schools offering Adams scholarships or any indication by Pitt basketball experts that the Panthers were going to offer him. It is not often that a successful D-I school signs a recruit that has not been heard of in at least some basketball circles. Another disheartening fact is that Adams has only played against competition in New Zealand and Australia. These opponents are seen as sub-par at best and cannot compare to the competition in the United States. There are plenty of big men in the States who play against top tier competition every night and are basically assured of being solid division-I players. Based on the past two recruiting classes, and Pitt’s recent success, it is not unrealistic to believe that Dixon could have landed an American center with more talent than Adams. The biggest concern for Panther fans is that Adams is basically an unknown player while there are plenty of future studs which Dixon could have gone after.
Certainly it is not crazy to believe that this was Dixon’s plan all along though. According to Chris Dokish signing Adams now allows Pitt to offer power forwards scholarships and promise them playing time at their natural position. This may sound like an absurd idea but it is exactly the reason why a major controversy has stemmed over sophomore Dante Taylor. One such forward Pitt is after is 2012 top-10 prospect Khem Birch. Birch would be one of the highest rated recruits ever to sign with Pitt and already lists them as one of his top three schools.
Ultimately there are two ways of looking at the Adams signing:
1.) Pitt is now too good of a program to be offering unknown prospects scholarships–especially when there are proven American players who would love the chance to play at Pitt.
2.) Adams has the assets to become a stud and more importantly allows Pitt to free up power-forward scholarships for the class of 2012.
Dixon has had his fair share of projects fail in the past, but the Adams signing cannot be fully evaluated until the rest of the class comes into focus.
For analysis of the Panthers incoming class check out this earlier post.