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More than meets the eye

There’s a lot more to Melbourne United's Kyle Adnam than meets the eye. Yes, he’s short. Yes, he’s got surfer-blonde hair. And yes, he looks like your 15-year-old cousin. But Adnam can play too. In fact, the kid has serious game. That much was obvious to all who witnessed Melbourne United’s preseason victory over UCLA on Saturday night at Victoria’s State Basketball Centre. With Melbourne United point god Cedric Jackson sitting the game out, Adnam took advantage of extended minutes to score 9 points and throw a game-high 10 assists in the 89-84 win. “The kid plays big,” Melbourne head coach Dean Demopoulos said postgame when asked about Adnam. “I don’t care what colour you are, what colour hair you have, how big, how little… that kid can play basketball. “He’s got some deficiencies like every player does but he can play and basketball players recognise it right away.” UCLA head coach Steve Alford – an outstanding player in his own right back in the day – certainly recognised it. Alford snapped a time-out early in the second quarter Saturday night after Adnam had kick-started Melbourne’s running game. The UCLA backcourt also recognised it. A backcourt made up of projected NBA lottery pick Lonzo Ball, Alford’s sharp-shooting son and the younger brothers of NBA All-Star Jrue Holiday and former NBA player Jordan Hamilton. Adnam gave those boys all they could handle. “They’re obviously great players and have big futures,” the 22-year-old told nbl.com.au. “But at the end of the day I love playing basketball and I’ve just got to go out there and be me no matter who I’m playing against.” Being ‘me’ means wheeling and dealing off the dribble and making plays. On Saturday, a tough and-1 late in the first quarter got his teammates amped while a no-look over-the-head dime to import Devin Williams was met with gasps from the crowd. “That’s Wild Kyle!” veteran guard Nate Tomlinson told media postgame. “It was good to see him playing with confidence because he’s really crafty and when he’s like that he’s tough to guard.” Wild Kyle’s decision-making was on point against UCLA, committing only 1 turnover while notching up double-figure dimes. In fact, for the first five minutes of the third quarter, Melbourne’s offense was almost entirely Kyle Adnam pick-and-rolls. The results were a Majok Majok alley-oop dunk, a Tai Wesley pick-and-pop three, a Majok easy lay-up and yet another UCLA time-out. “I’ve been around this game a long time and Kyle’s a unique basketball player,” Demopoulos told nbl.com.au. “He’s not afraid, he’s cocky, he has total control of the ball and he can shoot. “Ain’t nobody stopped him tonight and these [UCLA] guys are pretty good players.” For Adnam, elevating his game to become a consistent NBL performer is all about staying true to himself. “I got picked up at this level because I play a certain way,” he explained. “I want to listen as much as I can but I also don’t want to change me. That’s how I’ve played my whole life and it’s got me here so I’ve got to be doing something right. “Having said that, I’ve definitely got a lot to work on.” First things first, he needs to keep getting stronger and more active defensively. Small point guards need the strength to hold their own when posted up and must wreak havoc with quick hands elsewhere. Fortunately, that development will be fast-tracked for Adnam this season with the influence of Cedric Jackson, one of the greatest point guards ever to grace an NBL floor. With three championship rings, an Andrew Gaze Trophy and two Larry Sengstock Medals in his sports bag, Ced-Jax will provide daily lessons for Adnam on the practice court. “I think I’ve already annoyed him a little bit by picking his brain so often,” Adnam said about Jackson. “Ced has been one of my favourite players since he’s been in the NBL so to have him here in Melbourne is going to be huge for me.” The toughest task for Adnam is simply finding opportunities. Minutes are hard to come by for development players and when they come, you’ve got but an instant to showcase your skills. “Most guys who play limited minutes know that it is really hard, especially when you are someone who does like to have the ball,” Adnam said. “That’s just one of the things you’ve got to manage at this level because lots of people start at that point. Chris Goulding was doing the same things at one stage, coming in for just a minute. “You’ve got to manage that because that’s your chance to show what you can do. It is difficult, definitely, but you’ve got to be able to manage it.” In the end, Adnam is confident his time will come. Eventually. But his focus right now is precisely where it ought to be. “I just want what’s best for the team,” the point guard said. “Whenever I come in I’ve got to just fulfil my role and as long as I’m doing the right things by the team I’m happy with that.”  
  • Photo courtesy of Melissa Sudero & Melbourne United
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