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By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Zealander Steven Adams was thrilled to be taken by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 12th pick of the NBA Draft on Thursday, saying he hoped the selection would spur interest in basketball in his rugby-mad homeland.
"In terms of basketball, I'm hoping that will skyrocket," the 7ft center Adams, who made a name in his freshman season at the University of Pittsburgh, told reporters at Barclays Center on Thursday.
"Right now that was the main plan. Just instead of rugby, everybody's focused on rugby, they now have a different path to take and accomplish their goals, whether it be the NBA or whatever," the teenager said.
In the run-up to the draft, Adams made no secret of how much he admired what Serge Ibaka had accomplished in the NBA and how he would like to follow in the Congolese-Spanish power forward's footsteps.
Now the New Zealander, whose sister Valerie is the reigning world and Olympic shot put champion, is set to become Ibaka's team mate at a club that reached last year's NBA Finals.
"I'm going to go straight to Ibaka and try to study him first and see how he moves around defensively," he said. "All I'm trying to work on right now is rebounding, blocking shots, defense and running the lanes.
"All the base sort of stuff. From there I'll try to branch off or whatever. Whatever the coaches want."
Adams admitted he had plenty to accomplish before he could really believe he had arrived as an NBA player.
"It's such a huge honor to be a Thunder player in itself," said Adams, who turns 20 next month. "To be an NBA player, it feels pretty cool, but I don't consider myself an NBA player yet.
"I need to progress my game more and more and more, and then when somebody says 'hey, he's an NBA player now,' then I'll start saying yes, I'm an NBA player."
(Editing by John O'Brien)