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Kyle Adnam: Enjoying the Process

Written for nbl.com.au by Tom Hersz

Hard work and patience have paid off for Kyle Adnam.

Coming into the league as an undersized point guard, he was always the underdog. Through stops as a development player in Adelaide, Illawarra and then finally in Melbourne, Adnam worked.  

He worked on his game to build the confidence that he belonged. Then he worked on his body to be able to get the most out of himself and compete in this league.

Adnam is in his eighth season in the NBL, but only his fourth as a fully contracted player. Now 27 years old, he is in his second year of a two-year deal with the South East Melbourne Phoenix – the fifth club he’s been with since entering the league.

However, after showing flashes in Melbourne, then starting to get consistent opportunities with the Sydney Kings, Adnam has found a home with the South East Melbourne Phoenix – just down the road from where he grew up as a junior for the Kilsyth Cobras.

He is in the midst of a career season and it’s obvious that both he and his game have matured through all of the experiences that led to this point.

“I think all those experiences were really important for all different aspects of my game,” Adnam told NBL Media this week. 

“Early on in Adelaide, it was getting the confidence to play my game at this level. When I got back to Melbourne it was probably about getting my body to the NBL level and then obviously towards the end of that United season it was playing on a winning team and learning how to structure a game. 

“Whether that was learning from the older guys by watching them, watching guys like Casper as a point guard and then learning how to do that, and then [going up to] Sydney and South East Melbourne have actually been my opportunity years where I’ve been able to do those things on the floor.

“So, it’s been a bit of a process, but for a guy like me who is a smaller guard, it was always going to be a process of figuring out how to be my best at this level. 

“Over the last few years, I guess I’ve merged all those things together and just enjoying the process with a long way to go, lots of learning to do.”

Currently in fourth place with a 9 and 7 record, the Phoenix have not been without their challenges this season. Dane Pineau is yet to play a game. Adam Gibson has been in and out the line-up with a calf injury. Keifer Sykes has missed the past six games with an ankle injury and most recently they’ve started to integrate Ryan Broekhoff. 

On top of that, they had to contend with spending the first few weeks of the season on the road due to COVID travel restrictions and are yet to play a true home game at John Cain Arena this season outside of the NBL Cup.

Yet despite all of that uncertainty, Adnam has been a picture of consistency. He’s scored in double figures in 12 of South East Melbourne’s 16 games, has made at least one three pointer in all but one game and he’s found himself in Simon Mitchell’s closing line-up on several occasions. 

 

 

Adnam is averaging career highs in points, assists, steals, rebounds and threes made, as well as minutes and that would not be the case if he wasn’t making a positive impact each and every game. 

“I think it just comes down to preparation,” explained Adnam of his consistency. 

“In the offseason for me, I started in probably April last year. And I had goals from that start; some physical goals of putting on a bit of weight, getting a bit stronger and working out. I really wanted to take that next step in my game; I felt like I was ready to and I felt like that offseason work really helped. 

“You hear a lot, people talking about when you feel prepared you often feel like you can perform, and I felt like that preparation has really helped me both physically and mentally, coming into each game and being ready to play.”

When you watch him play, it’s obvious how much he’s enjoying his basketball right now. He’s also really enjoying being back in the Heartland where it all started for him.

At the Phoenix home games at the State Basketball Centre in Wantirna South – right in the heart of the South East, Adnam is a fan favourite. They know he’s a local boy come good and that fills the stands with a sense of pride every time he hits the floor.

That pride probably goes double for Adnam, who is a team co-captain this season. When he signed with the Phoenix for their inaugural season, his return to this part of Melbourne was extra special.

“It’s amazing. It’s home,” said Adnam. 

“I grew up here playing basketball from like 5 or 6 years old. I know how rich it is for basketball out in this South East and the fans know the game too. So for me, I feel comfortable here and having family at the games – it’s absolutely incredible.

“I love the South East and enjoying playing basketball here. We’ve got a great group of guys as well that I think really personify the South East community; I think our team really reflects it with the style of play that we’re playing with.”

That style of play Adnam refers to is what, in many ways, personifies his own journey to this point. That never give up attitude, that dog mentality, really wanting to play the right way and taking pride in your jersey with every game.

This Phoenix team has exuded that with how they’ve fought for wins against some adversity this season. That was especially true last round in the Throwdown, when severely undermanned, this team would not relent. 

They led early, but needed an overtime period to close out the game against crosstown rivals Melbourne United. Adnam was great with 18 points and 8 assists including the game tying three in regulation to force overtime.

In their Round 7 win against the Hawks, Adnam set a new club record with career-high 13 assists, while in their next game against Perth in Round 8, Adnam had it going all game on his way to a career-high 28 points. He made 5 of 10 triples and despite a narrow 1-point loss, it was Adnam who nearly found a way to get them over the line. 

 

 

In many ways, those recent games have signalled his arrival in this league as a bona-fide difference maker. A player who could put a team on his back and lead them, as opposed to someone who played his role off the bench in support.

One person who certainly took notice was Joe Ingles who watches most of Adnam’s games. Joe’s wife Renae, is the older sister of Kyle’s long-term girlfriend Anastasia. 

Ingles has said more than once that he feels ‘obliged’ to watch Kyle play, but in all seriousness, the two are very close and enjoy any opportunity to support each other, which I guess means Adnam feels just as obliged to watch Joe play with the Utah Jazz.

“I do,” admitted Adnam. 

“I watch the Jazz quite often. They’re one of my favourite teams to watch in the NBA, just the way they play and their style of play. It’s just really attractive basketball to watch. 

“And obviously seeing Joe sling a few threes always helps and watching him run the pick and roll, I get a little bit jealous that he’s 6’8” sometimes – it must be nice. 

“But we often chat and catch up about things, and he’s playing phenomenal basketball over there so it’s great to watch.”

The two talk quite often and share things they observe in each other’s games. Given Ingles’ intimate knowledge of the NBL, he has certainly been able to help Adnam over the years with some advice here and there to help Kyle elevate his game.

“Yeah definitely. We chat pretty frequently, not all the time, but we do chat frequently,” said Adnam. 

“Obviously our schedules are pretty busy but he’ll often talk to me about playing a pick and roll or different things like that, that he may have seen when watching the game. But at the same time, it’s more just about saying that we’re watching and keeping tabs on each other. 

“He’s always been great to me, he’s always been phenomenal with his communication to me and backing of me – I really appreciate it. I just try to return the favour when I can, watching those Jazz games.”

Off the court, Adnam has always had an affinity with surf and sun. Once called ‘that little surfer dude’ by Paul Henare when Adnam was a relative unknown, Adnam has put that outdoors passion to good use recently.

Three months ago, he and a friend launched a line of sunglasses called ‘Spencer and Kyle’. It’s very new, but they’re already receiving some great feedback on this venture that he decided to give a go as an outlet away from basketball.

“Just started designing some sunnies and making my own a few years ago, just as a hobby to be honest,” Adnam explained. 

“It just came about that one of my friends was interested in doing some design work and in making that whole idea come to life and I thought ‘why not?’ 

“It’s been going really well, I’ve had some awesome feedback. It’s all early days, but enjoying the whole process and just something else to do outside of sport to keep the mind interested.”

Of course, day-to-day Adnam is more focused on enjoying his basketball. He’s in career-best form and playing for his hometown team who are chasing their first ever Finals berth in just their second season in the league.

Adnam though, will be a free agent at the end of the season. Ask Corey Williams and Adnam has done himself several favours heading into free agency with the way he’s been playing in NBL21. ‘His price just went up’, you’ll often hear Williams say on the NBL Broadcast after Adnam makes a big shot or finds a teammate with a sweet dime.

Adnam is likely to have plenty of suitors during the offseason and while he’s started the past six games, his role on this team is largely as the back-up point guard. 

So is Free Agency a chance for him to explore a potential starting role elsewhere? Would he even consider leaving the Heartland – a place he is so heavily invested in? Has Adnam considered yet what his priorities will be this offseason?

“I haven’t really thought that far ahead,” he admitted. 

“Right now I’m focused on this season with South East and I think it’s pretty clear that I love it here and that’s something [staying with the Phoenix] I’d love to do. 

“Obviously come free agent time, we’ll have to work those things out, but right now I’m just focused on playing the best basketball I can here, and absolutely loving it and wouldn’t change a thing.”

After winning three straight games to close out the NBL Cup in second place, South East Melbourne will now come up against Adelaide in Round 10. 

Sykes, Gibson and Pineau are yet to return to the lineup while Broekhoff is still ramping up after not playing much in the past year. In addition, Mitch Creek will not play until further notice, leaving the Phoenix shorthanded again.

It would be easy for those that are playing to be daunted by that, but not this group. No matter who has been available, they’ve stayed focused, together and found ways to win, and they’ll do the same again on Saturday as they try to keep winning and stay in the top four.

 

 

“We’ve had that mentality all year of ‘next man up’ and we’ve been really lucky to have people step up and really perform in potentially different roles than what they were originally asked to do,” Adnam described. 

“Guys have had to step up, whether it’s a starting role or what not. I think we’re about to add back a few really good players and that will be a process getting them back into the group, but we all know that those guys are proven NBL players. So it’s going to be great having them back in and I think just keeping that group tight. 

“Whoever’s in each position, I think for us doesn’t matter in a sense; we’ve got the guys to do it night in and night out. I think this year in particular with COVID, it’s the teams that are able to make these kinds of adjustments that are really going to progress through and that’s something that we really want to hang our hats on as a group.”

Adnam has been leading from the front with that mentality all season. All of the experiences he’s had up to this point in his career and the preparation he’s put in have enabled him to lock in on how he can be most effective in helping this team succeed.

He’s enjoyed the process and will continue to do so all season because he believes in this group, just like he believes in himself. 

“I think we can go all the way,” Adnam proclaimed. 

“It’s obviously a process and there are some great teams in the NBL every year; it’s a tough competition. 

But we really feel like we’ve got the group to do it and we’d love to achieve that, keep our heads down and keep tracking in the right direction.”

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