Melbourne United young gun Kyle Adnam ready to step up

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Melbourne United 2016-17 review (5:13)

With big name players, Melbourne looked to make a splash in the NBL. Where then did it all go wrong? Look back at the season that was for United and could the addition of Dean Vickerman get them back to the Finals? (5:13)

During every Melbourne United home game over the past two NBL seasons, the crowd roared for one player in particular: It wasn't the big names such as Chris Goulding or David Andersen, but the player known as Wild Kyle.

Having spent the last two seasons as a development player for Melbourne United, Kyle Adnam has been rewarded with a two-year contract in April that put him on the 11-man roster. Furthermore, the Melbourne local has grown from being a South East Australian Basketball League Youth Player of the Year to earning his spot on the Emerging Boomers squad for the 2017 World University Games.

The 12-man squad, named in mid-June, is loaded with collegiate and locally-based talent that seems good enough to see Australia competing in the latter stages of the tournament. As one of the leaders of the squad, Adnam is looking forward to the challenge.

"The biggest plus for me is having a chance to run an international team," Adnam tells ESPN. "Representing your country is one of the pinnacles of sport but to be able to be a leader and run the team as the point guard is absolutely amazing."

Adnam will head to Taipei having had a loaded offseason, played with the Nelson Giants in the New Zealand NBL before joining his United teammates in China for a two-game series against the Jiangsu Dragons.

In 11 games for the Giants, Adnam averaged 16.6 points per game and 4.6 assists per game, a big leap on what he averaged in his past two NBL seasons. Should he repeat numbers in the NBL, he may play a bigger role this season for United and establish himself as a leading candidate to succeed Nathan Sobey as the league's Most Improved Player.

"I think you're going to see a bit of a changed outfit from us this season, just in the way we go about it. [Dean] Vickerman has come in and set a bit of a new culture and so far through the pre-season we've really seen a change with regards to our work ethic."

Adnam says he is also looking forward to the likely opportunity of going up against the NBA MVP in Russell Westbrook when United take on Oklahoma City Thunder in the U.S. between NBL rounds 1 and 2.

"For me I've always had to prove myself at most levels I've been at and it's not going to be an easy task, but just putting yourself in unfamiliar situations makes you more comfortable and the only way you're going to get better and improve is by putting yourself in those situations and this really is one of those," he said.

"As soon as I step across that line, it's just another game and I've really got to try and go at him and take the game to him."

Adnam already has experience of squaring off against top-tier talent as United last season welcomed UCLA into their building where he was tasked with trying to contain Lonzo Ball.

This was well before the Ball name became a daily talking point, but the abilities and play of Lonzo were there for all to see when Adnam got a firsthand look at the man who will be the face of the Lakers franchise for the next season.

"His size for a point guard is very impressive and we saw glimpses of his ability when he played here," he tells ESPN. "But as soon as I step onto that court I've got to play my game and not adjust my game to what they're trying to do."

"You might not be able to stop guys like them but it's all about trying to find a way to disrupt and throw them off without thinking that the task is too tall of an order."

Adnam's attitude towards playing high-profile rivals is shaped, in part, from having a close relationship with Australia's latest money maker in Joe Ingles. (Adnam's girlfriend is the younger sister of Renae Ingles, Joe's wife.) He says the ability to spend time on the floor with the Jazz wing -- along with point guard Dante Exum -- is invaluable.

"Whether it's a Wednesday morning scrimmage or in an actual game, going up against them is awesome. You really get a chance to test yourself, obviously Exum plays the point so it's a good chance for you to go at them and see how you fare against the best guys in the world."

With his humility well in check, Adnam refuses to bite when asked who took the points between himself and Exum. He says, however, that: "We won some games and I think it comes down to who was winning the games. Joe was on my team so he can back me up on that."

Underestimate Wild Kyle at your own peril.