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Kiwis on college basketball scholarships abroad continues to thrive

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

It has been well documented that over one hundred young New Zealanders are on basketball scholarships at universities in the United States.

What is less well recognised is that opportunities to further academic and basketball development also exist in Canada, the Philippines and even in New Zealand.

There are five Kiwis on basketball scholarships in Canada: Maia Watling, a sophomore at Cape Breton University, played for North Canterbury Spirit in the 2019 Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) season; Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats guard Sofia Kennedy is a freshman at the University of Windsor; Cantabrian Hayden Collier is at the University of Regina; former Wellington College standout Isaac Miller-Jose attends the University of Manitoba; and Dionne Martin, attending Algoma University, is a former Waikato representative.

Surprisingly, there are 11 young New Zealand men studying and playing in the Philippines UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines). Three are from the same family, with brothers Emmanuel, Patrick and Edward Maagdenburg all playing in the University League. Emmanuel is at Enderun College with his other two siblings who play for the Blue Eagles at Ateneo de Manila University.

Patrick Maagdenburg plays in the Blue Eagles top side, which is coached by former Tall Blacks Head Coach Tab Baldwin. Baldwin is in charge of the powerful Ateneo de Manila team, which has just swept the season 16-0 to win their third consecutive University Championship.

Also making waves in the Philippines’ UAAP League (University Athletics Association of the Philippines) is former One Tree Hill College and Auckland representative Unique Naboa. College of St Benilde Head, Coach Ty Tang, is full of praise for his young point guard.

"We need someone like him on the floor who can stabilise everyone inside and facilitate our offence. He is the starter of the team and plays most of the minutes - he’s always there on the floor," said the Blazers coach.

Naboa is relishing the responsibility of running the team.

"Coach Ty is a big help for me, he advises me how to execute properly. Now I have improved on making sure the play runs all throughout. I think I have adjusted with the team pretty well," said the Aucklander.

St Peter’s College (Auckland) Head Coach Manu Hoque, who has coached in the UAAP competition believes the opportunities that exist in the Philippines for players are on a par with those in America and Canada.

"There are many benefits when receiving a full ride scholarship [in the Philippines], usually for four or five years as it covers all accommodation, food and education fees.

"It also exposes players to the PBA scouts (Philippines Basketball Association) which is the local professional league. The PBA was the first professional basketball league established in Asia and is the second oldest continuously professional basketball league in the world after the NBA," says Hoque.

Unlike North America, Hoque says players on scholarships at universities in the Philippines may also earn a modest amount of money from the game.

"A handful of the players are also selected to play for a semi-pro league while they are attending university as the student athletes are allowed to participate and earn a bit of income while in school" added Hoque.

Basketball is the number one sport in the Philippines and the University League is very popular with games regularly drawing crowds in excess of 10,000.

In New Zealand, many of the universities offer athletic scholarships up to a certain value. Lincoln University is perhaps the best known for being trail blazers in terms of offering basketball scholarships for talented male and female New Zealand players. It will be interesting to see if other New Zealand universities will look to follow the Lincoln model in coming years. University of Otago targeted basketball this year by offering scholarships to the Aon U17 MVPs, although those players will be likely to be on US scouts lists as well.

The United States is still the most popular destination for Kiwis on basketball scholarships with the 2019-2020 season is closing in on its half-way point.

Overall Basketball New Zealand estimates 122 New Zealand athletes are attending overseas colleges in the current academic year, compared with 119 last year.

2019 Tall Ferns debutants Zoe Richards (Eckerd College, Florida) and Amy West (St Mary’s College, California) are back at their respective colleges after representing the national team this year. Others like Krystal Leger-Walker at Washington State University, Zara Jillings (Fordham University), Katelin Noyer (Fresno State University) and Akiene-Tera Reed (Virginia Commonwealth University) have worn the black singlet in previous years.

Tall Blacks alumni at Division I colleges include Dan Fotu (St Mary’s College, California), Isaac Letoa (Dartmouth College), Izayah Mauriahooho-Le'afa (Sacramento State University), Kruz Perrott-Hunt (University of South Dakota) and Sam Timmins (University of Washington).

Many others, in addition to graduating in their chosen academic field, are performing exceptionally well in the US and are certainly putting their hand up to wear a senior international singlet in the future including Yanni Wetzell (San Diego State University), Sam Waardenburg (University of Miami), Aimee Book (California State University Fullerton) and Charlotte Whittaker (University of Colorado).

Basketball New Zealand says 41 Kiwis are playing for NCAA Division I universities, an identical number to last year with the women just holding the balance of power (21 to 20).

Overall there are 75 male players overseas (boosted by the 11 in the Philippines) and 47 women.

There is more to come too. A number of age-group New Zealand players who have just finished school in New Zealand have committed to colleges in America for the 2020-21 season including Sam Mennenga (Davidson College), Marvin Williams-Dunn (Utah State Eastern), Tayla Dalton (St Mary’s College, California) and Rochelle Fourie (University of California Northridge).

Basketball New Zealand High Performance General Manager Leonard King says it’s not surprising these days, with Kiwi’s being regularly scouted for one of the most competitive environments in the world.

"From Invercargill through to Whangarei, US colleges want more and more Kiwi’s in their programmes. This year we have several top US colleges with more than one New Zealand player in their basketball programme, which proves how valued New Zealand players are in America.

"Not only do our athletes have a transformative experience at US colleges, these opportunities provide our next generation of athletes a pathway to the world. Several players who completed their college athletic careers are now competing in some of the world’s best basketball competitions, Turkey, Italy, Holland and Australia to name a few.

"Many of the college players receive a full scholarship, all tuition, books, board, meals, plus playing and training gear is free. It’s also great that the colleges usually have expert coaches and support staff investing in our athletes skill development, physical improvements, academic progress, and health and wellbeing over a four to five year period.

"It’s truly a journey of learning and growth for our players," added King.

NCAA DIVISION I PLAYERS

WOMEN

Amiee Book / Cal State Fullerton

McKenna Dale / Brown University

Tegan Graham / Colgate University

Kendell Heremaia / Fordham University

Joellen How / Wagner College

Zara Jillings / Fordham University

Jade Kirisome / St Mary's, California

Krystal Leger-Walker / Washington State University

Kayla Manuirirangi / Tulane University, New Orleans

Tara Manumaleuga / University of Arizona in Tuscon

Michelle Nicholls / Purdue, Fort Wayne

Tsubasa Nisbet / Georgia Southern University

Katelin Noyer / Fresno State University

Pareunora Pene / University of Tennessee Chattanooga

Sariah Penese / Maryland, Baltimore

Akiene-Tera Reed / Virginia Commonwealth University

Shalae Salmon / Brigham Young University

Kaylee Smiler / Brigham Young University

Khaedin Taito / Brigham Young University

Amy West / St Mary's, California

Charlotte Whittaker / University of Colorado

MEN  

Yuat Alok / University of Central Florida

Flynn Cameron / DePaul University

Tobias Cameron / Abilene Christian College

Quinn Clinton / St Mary's College of California

Max De Geest / Long Beach State University

Takiula Fahrensohn / University of Portland

Dan Fotu / St Mary's College of California

Matthew Freeman / UC Santa Barbara

Isaac Letoa / Dartmouth College

Angus McWilliam / University of California Riverside

Callum McRae / University of California Riverside

Izayah Mauriahooho-Le'afa / Sacramento State

James Moors / Colorado State

Kruz Perrott-Hunt / South Dakota

Anzac Rissetto / North Carolina Charlotte

Jackson Stent / Houston Baptist University

Sam Timmins / University of Washington

Sam Waardenburg / University of Miami

Yanni Wetzell / San Diego State University

Harrison Young / Texas Christian University

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