Topic: Basketball

US Basketball scouts impressed with Māori talent

By Eru Paranihi
  • North Island: West Coast
  • North Island: East Coast

Scouts from the US have turned up to the National Secondary Schools basketball tournament in Palmerston North, in the hope to lure our talent to play for their universities.

Organisers are tipping a young Te Whānau-a-Apanui girl to be picked up by one of the scouts.

There is an abundance of talent in the Manawatū who have come from around the country. The American scouts seemingly impressed.

University of Colorado Assistant Coach Mike Rohan says, “I've been excited to see some guys that I haven't seen before. I've heard about them, maybe seen them on video a little

According to tournament organisers, Charlisse Leger-Walker is highly likely to commit. The 15-year old was also a member of the Tall Ferns training squad for the Asia Cup - alongside older sister Krystal who currently plays for the University of Northern Colorado – and has been dominating on the court.

“Well I am looking to go over to the States, and College in about two years after Year 13,” says Leger-Walker (Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Porou).

In 2016 there were 90 players from New Zealand, many of whom are Māori, playing in the States. During the course of the week, Basketball scouts from Georgetown University, Texas Christian University (TCU), Santa Clara University (California), the University of Hawaii, NC State University (North Carolina), and the University of Colorado have been present at Central Energy Trust Arena.

“We're one of the top 50 academic universities in the world, so obviously, first of all, we're looking for kids that want to get a good degree,” says Rohn.

Kristin Iwanaga from Santa Clara says, “We're looking for someone who can dribble, pass, shoot. [We're also looking for] a Guard, kind of someone who can distribute the ball, can shoot the three.”

For many hopefuls, the reality is that not everyone will play in competitions like the NBA in the US or the EuroLeague basketball competition.

“You have to keep up your grades in order to go to a Division 1 school and play basketball, and then continue on from there,” says Iwanaga.

Says Rohn, “It's just like anywhere, you got to love to play, and you've got to work hard. If you're good enough, someone's going to find you.”

Playing in the US is inevitable for players like Charlisse. For the young girl from Te Whānau-a-Apanui, the next step for her is to decide where she will play.