Kelman-Poto a rookie on the rise

By James Perry

Unlike many young basketball players who dream of the big league, Dominique Kelman-Poto is hoping to establish himself back at home.

The 24-year-old, who spent his teenage years living on the US Eastern Seaboard, recently returned to Auckland and has quickly established himself as a star on the rise. 

The Auckland-born Tainui descendant is one of four NZ Breakers development players for this season.  He says the role is "difficult, 'cause I have to pretty much do everything that the team doesn't want to do, [like] carry the bottles.  But, first yeah, I'm fine doing it."

As well as being a part of the Breakers set up this year, he has found himself named in Paul Henare's Tall Black squad to prepare for the upcoming FIBA World Championships qualifying matches against Jordan and Syria.  While he is currently in the wider training squad, Kelman-Poto is determined to wear the black singlet someday "hopefully soon, yeah."

Kelman-Poto left NZ as a 15-year-old, and spent time in North and South Carolina, Boston, New Hampshire and New York. 

He says it was while in the States that he began playing basketball and was fortunate enough to be awarded a basketball scholarship. 

He played College level basketball at Adelphi University, NY. 

He finds some similarity in style between the college system and what he's finding at the Breakers. 

"In college it was a lot of sprinting, just like we do in training.  It's kind of tough but I think it's kind of helped me become the player I am right now."

He returned to New Zealand in recent years, and has found his career on a steady incline.  He was signed by the Super City Rangers in the NZ National Basketball League where he says he "had a pretty good season" which saw him included in the New Zealand squad that toured China in August, before securing a development spot with the Breakers. 

Kelman-Poto is one of four players named in the Tall Blacks squad that toured China with the NZ Select team and Henare says it is about creating depth for the national side, as well as future proofing. 

“We look at potential prospects and who is playing well in positions we might be short in.  That is an evolving beast, keeping track of all the players coming through as we do have great depth of talent right now, this is just another window of opportunity for some new faces."

Despite finding the role of a development player difficult, one of the benefits of being a Breakers development player is being able to train with, play with and learn from players with NBA experience, like former Philadelphia 76er and new recruit Shawn Long.

Kelman-Poto says Long "pretty much tells me where to go, what to do, helps me with my game a lot."

Kelman-Poto says Long has helped him perfect his timing, while he also praises Tai Wesley with helping him develop his game "and I can see the difference, players can see the difference and hopefully the coaches will see the difference as well." 

Adding to his desire to stay at home in New Zealand and develop his career further is the impending birth of his son.  Kelman-Poto says he's not looking to head offshore anytime soon to pursue a career in international leagues. 

"I'm just trying to stay local-based for [my son].  Maybe the furthest I'll go is Aussie, but probably not too far for my son to grow up with a dad."