Former Auckland Girls Grammar student, Rionne Papa, has won a Full Ride Scholarship to play basketball in the United States.
Papa is bound for Mineral Area College in Missouri and is set to jet off on Monday, August 13.
The scholarship covers everything from tuition to housing, food, and travel and this is just the beginning for the 18-year-old whose ultimate goal is to make it all the way to the WNBA and a chance to represent her country.
“If you’re from New Zealand absolutely your ultimate goal has to be making the Tall Ferns team ... putting on the black jersey and representing your country, and, of course, making the WNBA – that’s a big dream too.”
She says Steven Adams proved that it is possible for New Zealand basketballers in any age group to succeed in the NBA and the WNBA but she also says her coach was a key factor in her success.
“I played sports because I was tall for my age and my parents put me in basketball, but it wasn’t until maybe year 11 that our coach, John Subritzky, really pushed on us that we could do this – that we had the ability to go to America on full scholarships.”
Papa says that while she is excited for the journey ahead, getting to this point hasn’t been a walk in the park.
“So many nights just filling out forms, looking up the best way to do things. Getting my visa. It’s a lot to get through. But we’ve come to the end of all that work now and it’s paying off.”
She says life in America will be a different experience and as for basketball, she expects the U.S standard to be a major step up but is confident she will manage.
“I’m bracing myself for the speed of the game over there. It's way faster. We slow down and set the game but they let the ball flow, which I’m not so used to.
“I think it’s all about your attitude – putting in the effort.”
Once Papa arrives in the United States she will be straight into pre-season training to prep for the season that is set to start in October.
“I’ll be staying in a house with three of my teammates. We’ll be doing pre-season training for about two months and then the season starts in October,” she says. “And from there, in junior college, there’s the opportunity to get scouted by Div. one colleges. So that’s everyone’s ultimate goal.”
After an initial year of general studies, Papa plans to go into business management or accounting, with high-grade expectations for student-athletes. On court – and off it – Papa plans to make her family back in New Zealand proud.