US basketball scholarship recipients compete in Māori tournament

By Heta Gardiner

Whanaungatanga is the main focus at the Māori Basketball National Tournament- but there is still that competitive edge.

And it's that sense of competition which has helped a number of Te Arawa girls receive basketball scholarships in the USA. 

Awatea Leach has played in the Māori Basketball Nationals since the tournament's inception five years ago.

Just this week she accepted a scholarship to play for Collins College in Texas.

Pareunuora Pene, a regular competitor, just received a scholarship to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Matangiroa Flavell has just returned from her first year on scholarship with Houston Baptist University in Texas.

Flavell believes it’s their job to set a good example for the next generation.

“I see the skills of the kids, they are very talented.  It's my job to be an example for them and show them that they can go far.”

Aroha Jennings, who is playing for the Te Arawa women’s team at the tournament, was the first wāhine Māori from Te Arawa to receive a basketball scholarship to the US.

The tournament wasn’t around in her time and she’s glad the next generation of girls have a chance to strengthen their craft.

“The students now are actually thinking about playing overseas and they've now seen it can be done," says Jennings.