Former Tall Black Paora Winitana has been named as the cultural advisor for the NZ Select basketball team to tour China in June. Winitana will also assume that role when the Tall Blacks assemble for the Asia Cup in Lebanon in August.
It is a brand new role created by Basketball NZ, but Paora Winitana has been advising these young men for a long time.
Winitana (Ngāti Kahungunu) says, “When I first entered in and threw on the black singlet in 2002, you get brought into this culture that you hear about, that you know about, but you don't fully comprehend until you're in it.”
With New Zealand now playing under the Asia umbrella, the Māori culture will also be viewed by a bigger audience who are receptive to the haka. The Philippines and China qualifier match generated over 38 million viewers.
“It was the biggest television sporting event over there. So now we're going to be in that realm of playing, of possibilities. And to showcase basketball, New Zealand, and our culture, it's going to be awesome.”
Winitana has identified several Māori players who can take the responsibility of leading Tū Kaha, which he co-wrote with Ngāti Kahungunu elder Don Hutana. One of those players is Kentucky Wildcats player Tai Wynyard.
“I said bro you're the kaitiaki (guardian) now, you're the youngest on this team. This was before he went off to Kentucky. And I said, you have to understand this, and the importance of it, and the responsibility that you have. And for a young boy, he looked me dead in the eye and said I accept, I'll do it.”
The NZ Select team will play in China giving young players like Derone Raukawa and Jordan Ngatai, the opportunity to push for higher honours
“Just for them realising the great opportunity they have one day to play at the top level, the Tall Blacks, and carry that black singlet and our Silver Fern.”