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'Young Kiwis return to national basketball competition this weekend'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Three days, four trophies, six locations and 57 teams are a snapshot of the Aon Under 17 and Under 15 National Championships taking place this Labour Weekend.

Canterbury Basketball Association and Waikato Basketball Association are set to play hosts to the representative tournaments from Saturday 24 October through to Monday 26 October, with each event being scattered across various venues in the region.

Waikato will be looking to replicate or go one better than their efforts from 2019, where they won three of the four titles on offer (Under 17 Girls and Under 15 Boys and Girls). Waitakere West picked up the other championship trophy (Under 17 Boys).

Age definitions changed at the start of 2020 to fall in line with FIBA age classifications and that means all the players who took part in last year’s championships are eligible for this year’s tournaments.

AON UNDER 15 NATIONALS

Waikato secured both Under 15 titles last year and, with home advantage this time around, they will surely start as favourites this weekend.

2019 Tournament MVP Kashius Farmer will help lead the Waikato Boys’ title defence. Whilst they will start strong favourites, it is expected that Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington and Waitaha Canterbury will give them a run for their money.

Waikato Girls will have to manage without 2019 U15 MVP Shawnessy Nordstrom, but still possess plenty of talent with the likes of Tannika Leger-Walker (younger sister of Sky Sport Tall Ferns Charlisse and Krystal) and Kaylah Waihi likely to shine.

Waitaha Canterbury, Wellington, Auckland and Otago could be their closest challengers.

Aon UNDER 17 NATIONALS

Waitakere West will head to Christchurch looking for back-to back U17 Boys’ titles. 2019 MVP Dontae Russo-Nance will spearhead their effort, but they will be without the injured Tautoko Wynyard.

Other tall timber, including Wellington’s Ben Gold (a resident at the NBA Academy in Canberra) and Levick Kerr (Auckland) will also be absent leaving last year’s runners-up Waitaha Canterbury, North Harbour and Waikato as the likely leading adversaries.

Waikato forward Akiva McBirney-Griffin will be striving to win his fourth trophy in 2020. He has winner’s medals from the Mel Young Memorial, Waikato Schools competition (St John’s College) and Sal’s NBL Showdown (Fluid Recruitment Otago Nuggets).

Waikato Girls will be without the injured Leila Hemi but buoyed by the return of 2019 MVP Jayze’lee Waihi in their pursuit of consecutive championships. Waihi has returned after a stint playing high school basketball in the US.

It will also be a celebration to see the very brave Riva Walker-Pitman courtside as assistant coach of the Waikato girls’ team, which she once led on court. Walker-Pitman makes the trip south after a spell in hospital which has put her freshman year at Fordham University on hold.

Hutt Valley will be looking to go one better after finishing within seven points in last year’s final, while North Harbour, Tauranga and Otago are hoping to be in the mix at the business end.

Finals day for both tournaments will be live streamed and shown on the BBNZ website. The Under 17 Nationals will be live to all viewers, while the Under 15 Nationals will be password protected with only parents and selected supporters able to watch games. The age of the players is the reason for the protection.

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