New Zealand U18 have been rated as one of the teams to watch at these world champs.... here is why!
Track record: 2 Gold (2011, 2015), 8th (2012), 17th (2013)
When news broke reigning MVP Tai Wynyard would come to Kazakhstan, it became pretty clear New Zealand would be the favourites to defend their title. The mighty big man (2.05m, 110 kg) already promised "big dunks, hard work, hakas and excitement" and the supporting cast seems top notch once again, including the sharpshooting Samuel Waardenburg.
The NZ Basketball awards we held last night where they recognised excellence and outstanding achievements from individuals throughout the country. It was great to see Krystal and Tai collect the respective junior awards for 2016.
The McGloughlin Trophy for Female Junior Player of the Year – Krystal Leger-Walker
For the second year in a row Krystal Leger-Walker has been awarded the Female Junior Player of the Year, proving herself to be one of New Zealand’s unfaltering junior talents. Krystal was awarded Most Valuable Player at the 2015 Secondary School National Championships and again at the Under 19 Nationals. She was a National Representative in the Under 18 3x3 team, which competed at the FIBA Under 18 3x3 World Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, finishing 12th in the world.
Krystal is currently touring with the Tall Ferns in their lead up to the Rio Olympics Qualification Tournament.
The Ambassador Trophy for Male Junior Player of the Year – Tai Wynyard.
For the second year running, Tai Wynyard has won Male Junior Player of the Year. Tai’s 2015 started by winning the Australian NBL as a member of the Breakers squad. In June he travelled to Debrecen, Hungary, to compete in the FIBA U18 3x3 World Championships, taking home not only the gold medal, but also the award for the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Later in the year Tai was again applauded for his efforts at the same 3x3 World Championships by being named as the player with the best 3x3 Play of the Year, for a block in the Final. At home his school team, Rangitoto College, won the AA Secondary School National Championships title, where he was also presented with the Tournament MVP award. Tai was again selected as a Tall Black in 2015 and travelled to China where they won the 2015 Stankovic Continental Cup. He also played for the Tall Blacks against Australia in the FIBA Oceania Championship series and later in the year received a full athletic scholarship to one of the most distinguished NCAA Division 1 Basketball Colleges in the United States, University of Kentucky.
Isaac Letoa was well settled in Year 11 at Wellington College until his Mum changed jobs and he was forced to move to Auckland.
A promising basketball player Letoa headed to Westlake Boys’ High School, a perennial powerhouse in National competition. Letoa was immediately pushed to greater heights.
“I made the starting five in my first year, but I didn’t get a lot of court time. Playing and training alongside guys like Matt Freeman forces you to become better. They are really inspiring and demanding,” Letoa acclaims.
In the last two years Westlake have finished runners up at the National Championships. In 2015, Letoa was named in the tournament team. This year he is captain of Westlake. In the opening fixture of the Auckland competition on Friday night he scored a game-high 35 points as Westlake accounted for Kelston BHS 99-78. What does Westlake have to do to take one more step and become New Zealand’s best?
“I’m not really sure, apart from continuing to work hard. We have had really good teams in the last couple of years, there isn’t a lot in it at Nationals,” Letoa says.
There was plenty of competition to get places in the New Zealand 3×3 team. New Zealand are the under-18 World Champions and Letoa surprised himself by making the final cut.
“I haven’t played a lot of 3×3, but I decided to give it a go because I wanted a fresh challenge. I played in the trials and found out last Tuesday I was in the team which was a bit of a surprise.”
Let joins Tai Wynyard, Sam Waardenburg and Hamish McDonald in the Kiwi squad who will head to Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, to defend their title between June 1-5.
“I am the shortest player in the team so I play like a point guard. My job is to shoot and find the big guys inside. ”
Games are played over a single period of ten minutes on half a court with a 12 second shot clock. The team that reaches 21 points first wins.
“3×3 is a lot quicker and games are played outside which means the weather becomes a factor,” Letoa says.
New Zealand are grouped with Spain, who were fourth at the last edition of the event in Debrecen, Hungary, as well as emerging nations the Philippines, Hungary and Brazil.
The Netherlands are ranked World number one while 2015 runners-up Argentina have been pitted alongside current European champions Turkey.
The top two in each pool progress to the finals.
“I don’t know a lot about our opposition, but they will be tough. Making a good start and winning the pool games is really important.”
New Zealand has been training for two weeks and Letoa says things are coming along nicely.
“Tai has done a lot of training with Kentucky and is enjoying his time back here. He is looking forward to actually playing. I think we have a good chemistry,” Letoa concludes.
New Zealand Results 2015
The Tall Ferns basketball squad for the upcoming tour of China has been named. Krystal Leger-Walker is the youngest member of the squad and has completed the family double after her younger sister was named in the NZ U18 3on3 team earlier in the week earlier.
Head Coach Kennedy Kereama has announced a squad of 14 players to tour China and Europe ahead of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France next month.
The 14 players selected are:
• Micaela Cocks, aged 30, from North Harbour, plays for Townsville Fire
• Antonia Edmondson, 28, Canterbury - Perth Lynx
• Kalani Purcell, 21, Counties Manukau - Brigham Young University-Provo
• Erin Rooney, 25, Canterbury - Cote D'Opale Basket Calais, France
• Lisa Wallbutton, 30, North Harbour - Perth Redbacks
• Jessica Bygate, 24, Nelson - Adelaide Lightning/Sunbury Jets
• Chevannah Paalvast, 24, Waitakere - Townsville Fire
• Jordan Hunter, 25, Counties Manukau - Lady Hawks
• Deena Franklin, North Harbour - Waitakere Lady Rangers
• Krystal Leger-Walker, 18, Waikato - Waikato Wizards
• Brooke Blair, North Harbour - Idaho State University
• Katelyn Noyer, Waitakere - Waitakere Lady Rangers
• Stella Beck, 20, Hutt Valley - Saint Mary's College, California
• Penina Davidson, 20, Waitakere, University of California, Berkley
Basketball New Zealand has named both its men’s and women’s U18 3X3 teams to attend the FIBA 3X3 World Championships in Kazakhstan in June, with the men setting out to defend the title they won in Hungary last year.
Full Teams (plus reserves below):
NZ Men’s Team
Reserves (will attend training camps)
NZ Women’s Team
Reserves (will attend training camps)
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