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Recruiting rundown: Pitt-bound Kiwi star makes US debut

5th Annual adidas Nations

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 6: Steven Adams #131 during day two of the adidas Nations at the HAX Athletic Center in Los Angeles, California.

Kelly Kline/adidas

It’s not an overstatement to say that the weekend debut of Steven Adams, a Pitt-bound 6-11 center, was among the most highly-anticipated events of the season for recruiting junkies. Adams previously played twice in the United States at the adidas Nations events, most recently in August, and in his brief opportunity to showcase his skills, drew attention as a potential future NBA prospect.

After finishing school in New Zealand, Adams joined the squad at Notre Dame Prep (Fitchburg, Mass.) to finish out the season. If that school and scenario sounds familiar to Pittsburgh fans, it should as the last international prospect the Panthers stashed at Notre Dame Prep was Khem Birch, a recent transfer to UNLV after playing only 10 games at Pitt.

Adams played in three weekend games, against top notch prep school competition, including a matchup against New Hampton Prep (N.H.), which was televised on ESPN from the loaded Spalding Hoophall Classic. To be clear, Adams didn’t exactly cement his status as a 2013 NBA lottery pick. He collected 5 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks in the game, and provided remarkably candid quotes to the assembled media regarding his nervousness and adaptation to the United States to date.

On Saturday, Adams matched against top 2013 prospect Nerlens Noel of Tilton School (N.H.) in at least part of the game, and boasted an impressive stat line of 23 points and 14 rebounds. It remains to be seen if he will fulfill his hyped promise, but he remains a true center with remarkable fluidity and potential, making it easy to see why draftniks are so excited about his future.

In Adams, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has cashed in on his way back history as a basketball player in Australia. The trajectory of big men in the Pitt program certainly indicates that Adams will be brought along slowly, and given the chance to adapt to the physicality of high-major basketball. Then again, Adams will likely be a 7-footer when he hits campus, and a building piece in making fans forget about this so far disappointing performance this season.

2013 star Derek Willis will declare on Friday
When 6-9 power forward Derek Willis of Bullitt East (Ky.) announces his college decision, and he won’t stray far from home. Willis has Kentucky, Louisville, Purdue and Indiana on his list of schools, and wherever he chooses had better hope that the second time is a charm for his decision.

Willis committed last year to Purdue, prior to re-opening his recruitment. While all of the above-listed schools have been in hot pursuit of the talented big man, it’s hard to see him leaving his home state, and in fact, the smart money is on Willis becoming Kentucky’s first recruit in the 2013 class.

Now, Willis’ recruitment hasn’t been standard, but it is quite difficult to see him leaving his home state based on a variety of factors. It’s also hard to imagine that a high school junior in the heart of the Bluegrass State would make an in-season announcement to a college that isn’t located in his home state. Willis is likely the best junior prospect in Kentucky, and he will be a nice score for whichever program lands his pledge, provided they can hold on to it until next November, when he can sign and make things official.

If Willis does end up at Kentucky as some believe, it’s fair to say that he can have an impact similar to Kyle Wiltjer’s. Kentucky isn’t near done with their 2012 recruiting class just yet, with their fingers firmly planted in the recruitments of many of the top current uncommitted players still remaining in the class, but Willis would be a good look for the future.

Connecticut, Kentucky jump in race for center Tony Parker
Usually, when high school basketball prospects have already taken four official visits, they have acquired the information necessary to make their college decision. 6-9 center Tony Parker of Miller Grove (Ga.) is arguably the best center still on the board, but he’s an exception to that axiom. Parker is a beefy center that has the size and skill to make an impact as a freshman next season at whichever school he decides to attend.

Parker already taken trips to Ohio State, UCLA, Memphis and Duke, but has yet to verbally commit to any of them. Over the weekend at the Spalding Hoophall Classic, Parker told reporters that Kentucky and Connecticut were among the schools in the mix for his last official visit. Prior to that, Kansas has also tried to get involved with the talented big man. Parker seemingly has a constantly updating school list.

For a time, UCLA seemed to be in good position for Parker, but like the nation’s no. 1 recruit Shabazz Muhammad, Parker’s status with UCLA seems to be in a holding pattern as the Bruins continue their mixed results on the court. Recent buzz has indicated that Ohio State could have a good shot at getting Parker as a replacement for Jared Sullinger, if their current sophomore star jumps to the NBA after the season. Still, Parker’s AAU teammate Alex Poythress has already signed with Kentucky, and they have been pushing hard to land a center for next year.

It doesn’t look like Parker is anywhere near a final decision for the future, but if either UConn or Kentucky can obtain Parker’s final official visit, they could have an inside track in wresting Parker away from his previous suitors.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.