Burnside High School’s 76-58 victory over St. Thomas of Canterbury College in the Canterbury Under-17a grade basketball championship this week sounds routine, but the performance of Mitchell Langley on the losing team was quite remarkable.
The Year 11 student became the first St Thomas player to record a triple double in Canterbury Basketball Association (CBA) statistics recording 14 points, 13 rebounds and a staggering 16 blocks. The number of blocks is a new CBA record. The next highest blocker in the game had three blocks while Langley’s previous best was five.
“We had the lead in the third quarter, but because Burnside as struggling to get to the hoop they choose to pass more and shot from distance. We couldn’t contain them and so they won in the end.” Langley complains.
Langley wasn’t entirely satisfied with his previous sport of choice, rugby league. He abandoned the code last year in purist of a new challenge. While playing social basketball he was encouraged to trial for the St. Thomas First V and made the cut for both the Under-17a squad and the Thompson Trophy roster who compete in the Under-20 grade.
“I am playing three games a week at the moment. I play on Tuesday for the Under-17’s and on Saturday for both teams. I get little rest with the Under-17’s, but I am the youngest player in the First V which means my minutes are less frequent.” Langley explains.
A sudden growth spurt is one factor contributing to Langley’s recent success. He was six-foot a year ago, but the 15-year old centre has shot up to 6 foot 5 in 2017.
“I was the tallest guy in the Burnside game which helped me dominant the boards. I like to attack the hoop hard and prevent the opposition from getting inside. That’s my game at the moment, but I need to work on my hands and shooting. I am hoping to get better all the time.” Langley says.
In the Under-17a grade St. Thomas has won two out of three games while the First X was only 14th in the South Island Championships last year. However the school has recently built a new gym and presently boasts 15 teams.
“My goal for the rest of the year is to keep improving with the ultimate goal being a scholarship in the US. I love the sport and am getting better all the time.” Langley enthuses.
Langley is not the only big boy making a huge impression in Christchurch. Angus McWilliam at Middleton Grange stands 6 feet 10 and has just acquired a scholarship to play NCAA Division I basketball at Texas Christian University.
P.S. Not suggesting for any minute that Langley’s feat rivals the NBA, but the sheer number of blocks he attained is highly unusual in any game of basketball at any level. Blocks have been recorded in the NBA since the 1973-74 season. In nearly 45 years only 43 different players have blocked 10 or more shots in a game. It has occurred a total of 155 times (including the playoffs) in NBA history. Mark Eaton accomplished the feat more times than anyone else in league history (19), followed by Manute Bol (18). Eaton, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Andrew Bynum are the only players to block 10 or more shots in a playoff game, with Bynum being the only player to do so with a victory. All of the before mentioned players are seven foot or taller.
The New Zealand Junior Tall Blacks team to compete at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup has been named, with many of those who earned the historic first ever win over Australia to qualify booking their places in Cairo in early July.
Head Coach Daryl Cartwright is excited about the group that will for the first time in New Zealand’s history, play at a FIBA U19 World Cup having won their qualifying tournament (defeating Australia at the Oceania Championships last year in Fiji) after playing in 2009 as host country.
“It was one of the things we pushed at the Oceania Qualifiers is that ‘everything is impossible until someone does it for the first time’ and of course we were massively proud as a group to defeat Australia and achieve a first for a New Zealand team with a hugely talented group of young men,” said Cartwright.
“They are also young men of great character, with wonderful family support to help them get to where we are today.”
It won’t come as a surprise to those who follow the game given the current strength across the entire code, but this is a strong team based on a core group that have played plenty of basketball together through the New Zealand age group teams, as well as last year’s qualifying win in Fiji.
It is also a team with considerable size, with the New Zealand associations and pathways continuing to produce a raft of quality young ‘bigs’, with Callum McRae, Angus McWilliam, Sam Waardenburg and Tai Wynyard all standing at 6’10” or taller.
“As coaches we stood on the sideline at our final camp and we see a guy at 7’1” and four others at 6’10” vying for places on the team. That is a big lineup and would have to be the biggest junior national team ever assembled, bigger than most Tall Black teams from the past few years.
“But there is also talent in the guard line and right across the roster, we have depth in all five positions and guys who have experience playing for New Zealand internationally. Not only do they bring talented skill sets but a good understanding of the game.”
New Zealand has been done no favours in the draw, with one of the gold medal favourites France, South American powerhouse Argentina and world number 15 ranked Korea to contend with. Cartwright knows that every game is going to be a huge test of the physical and mental strength of his side.
“We don’t take notice of outside pressure, our sole goal when taking over the role going to Oceania was to qualify so they had the opportunity to play at a FIBA World Cup. Now is not the time to celebrate that and just go for the ride, our goal is to come out of pool play into the round of 16 with as high a ranking as we can achieve, that will help us with the crossover game in the round of 16 (Group A crosses with Group B in the round of 16). Any kind of silverware would be nice of course, but we are not getting ahead of ourselves, our focus is on pool play and one game at a time.”
Cartwright was quick to acknowledge the great work being done by coaches, associations and families around the country when naming the team.
“I have mentioned this before and did so at the Oceania Championships, I take this team on as a culmination of the hard work going on within all of our associations and by many coaches and families. The ever-improving development and knowledge base of our coaches is seeing the talent we produce getting better and better.
“Australia has traditionally been our nemesis with a well-funded basketball machine, we have had to go up against that without the same resource but thanks to families helping fund athletes programmes and coaches tapping into the knowledge and resource being made available, we are closing the gap. Everyone has played their part and can be rightly proud of this team heading away next month.”
Cartwright says the health of the game at the moment goes beyond this group, with a raft of talented young New Zealanders – male and female, making their mark on the world stage.
“Look at the recent few years intake into American College’s and our athletes are not going to just any school, they are going to the top division one basketball programmes. The quality of our young players has the attention of the top coaches in the USA. Just this week I had a number of those coaches on the phone, asking about our group and who was coming through. That is exciting for our sport and great for the quality of players that will soon be in the frame for Tall Black selection.”
Amongst those not to make the team included some struck down by injury at the wrong time, with Dan Fotu (North Harbour), Takiula Fahrensohn (Waitakere West Auckland) and Samson Aruwa (Auckland) amongst those not able to press their claims for inclusion.
2017 Junior Tall Blacks for the FIBA U19 World Championship, Cairo July 1 to 9.
Joshua Aitcheson - 18
Flynn Cameron - 16
Gold Coast Basketball, Australia
Tobias Cameron - 18
Gold Coast Basketball, Australia
QuinnClinton - 18
Canterbury Basketball Association
Toby Gillooly - 19
Canterbury Basketball Association
Isaac Letoa - 18
North Harbour Basketball
Hamish McDonald - 18
Waikato Basketball Council
Callum McRae - 18
Palmerston North Basketball Association
Angus McWilliam - 17
Canterbury Basketball Association
Taane Samuel - 18
Wellington Basketball Association
Samuel Waardenburg - 18
University of Miami
Tai Wynyard - 19
University of Kentucky
Brayden Inger - 18
North Harbour Basketball
Connor Woodbridge - 19
Auckland Basketball Services
New Zealand Group A Schedule
New Zealand v Korea
July 1st, 11pm NZT
New Zealand v France
July 3rd, 1:30am NZT
New Zealand v Argentina
July 5th, 4:15am NZT
Tall Ferns head coach Kennedy Kereama has named a blend of youth and experience in the squad of players that will attend a selection camp in Auckland early next month (June 6-12).
Despite a couple of notable absentees it is a squad Kereama is happy with.
“The staff and I are very excited about the list of players that will be available. We are very confident that the group of players that we have selected is the best to choose from.
“We have managed to bring in most of our more experienced line up with a mix of potential players who will no doubt play a part in the future of the Tall Ferns program. I think it is important to have a good balance of experience and emerging youth.
“There are some exciting new names on the list such as Kayla Manuirirangi, Georgia Agnew and Charlisse Leger-Walker to name a few. All have had very good college experiences and will be coming into camp for their first opportunity. This is a very exciting time for them and I know that our experienced players and leaders such as Antonia Farnsworth (nee Edmondson), Jillian Harmon, Micaela Cocks and Natalie Taylor will do a great job of bringing them into the Tall Ferns way of life at camp.”
Farnsworth, Cocks and Taylor each boasts over a decade of international experience whilst, in contrast,Manuirirangi, Agnew and Leger-Walker will be entering a senior national camp for the first time.
Agnew, now studying physiotherapy in Auckland spent four years at Utah Valley University and Manuirirangi is a freshman at Tulane University.
Also entering a full international camp for the first time will be 15 year-old guard Charlisse Leger-Walker. The Year 11 student at St Peter’s School, Cambridge has already played for a number of New Zealand age group teams but this will be her first venture into the senior ranks.
Kereama added, "There are a select few players who unfortunately due to collegiate commitments or injury will be unavailable this year.”
Leger-Walker’s older sister Krystal, having recently completed her first year at the University of Northern Colorado, is one missing due to university obligations.
A couple of regulars from recent Tall Ferns campaigns, Stella Beck and Penina Davidson, are also unavailable for the same reason. Beck, recently named Female Player of the Year at the Basketball New Zealand Awards evening is entering her senior year at Saint Mary’s College in San Francisco and Davidson is also embarking on her final year at the University of California Berkley.
Kereama is philosophical about the loss of some talented players. “I believe the programme has done a great job of blooding so many players over the last few years that we will have enough experience and developing talent to get the job done.”
Following the camp the team will be selected for a tour of China and Singapore before the Tall Ferns compete at its first FIBA Women’s Asia Cup.
The 2017 tournament will be staged in Bangalore from July 23-29. For the first time Australia and New Zealand will compete at the tournament alongside six Asian teams in Division A.
New Zealand has been drawn in Pool A alongside perennial powerhouse China, Chinese Taipei and the DPR of Korea
The top four teams from the tournament will qualify for the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup.
Tall Ferns Selection Camp Squad
Georgia Agnew –Harbour Breeze / NZL
Jessica Bygate – Melbourne Boomers/ Sandringham Sabres /AUS
Tea Charlton – Nottingham Wildcats/Nottingham Trent University /ENGLAND
Micaela Cocks – Townsville Fire/ Mackay Meteorettes /AUS
Antonia Farnworth (nee Edmondson) Perth Lynx/ Perry Lakes Hawks /AUS
Deena Franklin – Harbour Breeze /NZL
Jillian Harmon – Le Mura Lucca /ITALY
Charlisse Leger-Walker – Waikato Wizards /NZL
Kayla Manuirirangi – Tulane University /USA
Katelin Noyer – Fresno State University /USA
Chevannah Palvaast – Townsville Fire/ Mackay Meteorettes /AUS
Kalani Purcell – Brigham Young University /USA
Erin Rooney – Artego Bydgoszcz /POLAND
Josephine Stockill – Sunbury Jets /AUS
Natalie Taylor – Brisbane Spartans /AUS
All eyes in Auckland Premier Basketball on Friday night will be focused on the North Shore when fierce rivals Westlake Boys’ High School clash with Rosmini College for the first time this season.
Rosmini managed to defeat Westlake three times last season and Mitchell Dance is hoping Rosmini can continue that winning advantage.
“We have a real young team this year with only three Year 13s in the roster. Last year we made Nationals for the first time in a while and preformed pretty well so we are confident with hard work we will have a good season,” Dance forecasts.
Last Friday Rosmini edged semi-final contender Auckland Grammar School 61-56 to remain one of only three unbeaten teams in the early rounds of the Auckland Premier competition – Dance top-scored with 21 points.
“It was a diffcult game. We had six players away with injury and other commitments. One of our big men was out so we had to pull together a new game plan and pass and shoot more. It was a bit messy, but we got the win.” Dance reflects.
Dance insists Rosmini will have to be a lot better to topple Westlake.
“I think Westlake along with Rangitoto, Grammar and Palmerston North Boys’ will be the strongest teams in the country this year. We will have to shut down James Moors, Westlake’s big man, if we are going to win.”
Dance is Year 12 and already stands 6 foot 4. He explains his role in the Rosmini team is to provide leadership as one of the more experienced players. Dance along with sprightly point guard Marvin Williams-Dunn and the towering William Heather are shaping as key players.
Last year Dance was selected for the New Zealand Under-16’s who toured Australia. The visit across the Tasman proved to be a valuable learning experience.
“It was a really good experience because it’s a different game in Australia. They play a lot faster than we do in New Zealand. We were beaten in the tournament on a buzzer beater by Victoria Metro, the team that won. We blew a 20-point lead in the final quarter.” Dance rues.
Dance was also left to rue a buzzer beater defeat to Palmerston North Boys’ High School at Nationals last year. Palmerston North kicked onto make the final. The loss left Rosmini second in their pool and with a quarter final match-up against eventual champions Rangitoto College.
Rosmini went on an 11-game win streak in Auckland last year which included a win over Rangitoto. Rosmini won six out of eight games at Nationals and finished a credible fifth.
Mitchell is the son of Shane Dance who played for the Junior Tall Blacks. Mitchell first made a big impression in the sport when he was MVP at the National Under-13 and 15 club championships with Hibiscus Coast.
St Peter’s School Cambridge basketballer Charlisse Leger-Walker won the McGloughlin Trophy as the Female Junior Player of the Year at the Basketball New Zealand Awards on Friday evening.
The awards recognised excellence and contribution in the 2016 year, and it was a unanimous decision from all coaching staff of the Junior Tall Ferns to nominate Charlisse for this award. In their words, she demonstrated the skills, attitude and professionalism, and performed to the highest standard in her age group.
During 2016 Charlisse was named Most Valuable Player for both the Under 17 and New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships. Internationally, playing for the Junior Tall Ferns team, she was the most consistent performer during their campaigns in China, Fiji and back here in New Zealand. Leger-Walker was also a valuable member of the women’s Under 18 team that came fifth at the FIBA Under 18 3x3 World Championships in Kazakhstan last year, the best placing ever for one of our women’s teams.
Late last year, the then Year 10 Charlisse won the tournament MVP as St Peter’s won the NZSS girls title for the second successive year. St Peter’s beat Mount Albert Grammar School 68-53 in the final. In the final she racked up a double-double with 35 points and 14 rebounds.
Charlisse went on to win last year’s Waikato Secondary Schools Sportswoman of the Year title, at the Brian Perry Waikato Regional Sports Awards.
The Ambassador’s Trophy for Male Junior Player of the Year was won by former Rangitoto College player Sam Waardenburg, who is now studying and playing NCAA Division 1 basketball on scholarship for the University of Miami.
He was chosen to attend several basketball camps overseas including the NBA and FIBA Basketball Without Border Asia Camp in Melbourne where he was named Most Valuable Player. This led to a selection for the NBA and FIBA Basketball without Borders Global Camp in New Orleans, as well as the Adidas Nations Tournament in Los Angeles.
Sam was an integral member of the Under 18 3x3 World Cup team which finished fourth in Kazakhstan. Most notably he was a member of the Junior Tall Blacks team that beat Australia at the FIBA Oceania Under 18 World Qualifying tournament in Fiji and was named in the All Star Five for the tournament. He played for the Rangitoto College team that won the Secondary Schools National Championships and was also named as MVP for that tournament.
Three years ago, if you told the 17-year-old Yanni Wetzell that he would be joining a Division One (D1) NCAA Basketball college, he would have struggled to believe it.
After spending much of his youth focussing on tennis, Wetzell decided in his final year at Westlake Boys’ High School to give basketball a crack - a sport that his school is so well known for. Wetzell and his team made it all the way to the 2014 national final of the Basketball New Zealand Secondary Schools National Championships, only to go down to Otago Boys’ High School. Wetzell says his final year at Westlake provided a great base for his rapidly-improving basketball future.
“It was great to be part of one of the best basketball programs in New Zealand.
“Making that national final was something that I never really found with tennis, so that was probably a highlight of my high school days.”
On Thursday the 6-foot-10 forward confirmed his transfer from Division Two St Mary’s University, Texas to D1 Vanderbilt University, joining more than 40 other Kiwis committed to D1 basketball, and continuing his time in scholarship basketball with over 120 Kiwis who belong to US Scholarship basketball programmes.
That said, due to NCAA transfer rules, Wetzell will have to redshirt (train only) in his opening year at Vanderbilt. Sitting on the pine will be somewhat an unusual feeling for Wetzell who averaged over 28 minutes per game in his two seasons at St Mary’s - minutes which he relished.
“St Mary’s was huge for me. It was a level where I could play a lot. Court experience was the most important thing in my eyes, in terms of improving, so being able to be on the court for 30 minutes a night - that’s really where I developed. I just had to work my tail off to get where I am. It’s all about hard work and consistency.”
And hard work it was. In Wetzell’s two seasons at St Mary’s, preseason training would consist of weights or conditioning training every morning of the week before a two-hour on-court training five-to-six times a week. That’s excluding Wetzell’s hour-long individual shoot-around he’d do before most trainings and on his free time in the weekends.
Earning the Heartland Conference Freshman of the Year award after averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in just this second year competitive basketball, Wetzell improved in almost every category come the end of his 30-game sophomore year.
Wetzell finished the 2016-17 season with per game averages of 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.6 blocks, recently earning him the attention of eight D1 colleges, including Baylor University and the University of Texas.
Being spoilt for his choice of offers, Wetzell had to narrow down the options, which he chose to do largely by assessing the academia and basketball personnel of each school. Eventually Wetzell slimmed his options to three possible destinations: Purdue University, Santa Clara University and Vanderbilt. After deliberation, Wetzell committed to Vanderbilt thanks to a range of factors.
“Academically they’re a top-20 school in the nation. I can get my MBA (Master of Business Administration) in the three years that I’m there.
“On the basketball side, they’re in the SEC (South Eastern Conference), so one of the most competitive conferences in the nation, as well as all the exposure.
“Vanderbilt seems to win in different ways with higher basketball IQ and good skill level. I got really good vibes from the coaching staff and all the people that I met on my visit. It felt like a place that I could really live in. It just felt right.”
Ineligible to get on the court for Vanderbilt this upcoming 2017-18 season, the Aucklander admits it will be a very much self-centred season as he readies himself for the unprecedented challenge of D1 competition.
“It’s going to be a selfish year for me. I’m going to be able to work on my game. When they’re on the road I’ve just got to get in the gym and in the weight room and do my own stuff.
“I’ve got to grow a lot as a player in this off-year to be able to compete at that level. I’ve got to get better in every aspect of basketball.”
That’s not to say Wetzell hasn’t been made to exceed his regular competition in the past, though. In 2016, at the age of just 20, Wetzell was named in the Pero Cameron-coached New Zealand ‘Select’ team where he learned from seasoned professionals such as Benny Anthony and Sam Dempster.
That experience with the NZ Select team was something that Wetzell cherished and benefitted hugely from.
“Playing with the likes of BJ and a couple of the other guys that had been on the Tall Blacks team was an awesome experience. Putting on that black singlet for the first time was a huge thing for me. I’ve always wanted to play for my country so it was exciting.”
And taking the next step to don a Tall Blacks jersey? In Wetzell’s words, that will be coming “as soon as I can.”
The New Zealand Under 16 boys basketball team and the New Zealand Select Under 16 boys team have been named. These teams will travel to Australia in June and July to take on some of Australia's top junior teams.
New Zealand Under 16 Boys Head Coach, Zico Coronel, says the team was selected following a comprehensive trial process beginning in December comprising of four national camps.
"As a coaching staff Morgan [Maskell], Danny [Page], and Manager Manu Hoque and I believe that the prolonged timeframe has allowed the boys to make major improvements. The team looks quite different now than if we’d had selected it earlier owing to the outstanding work done by many athletes with their local coaches leading to huge improvements. It was a difficult selection with so many boys performing at a high level, however after much discussion as a coaching staff and film study, we are very pleased with our squads and the quality of the reserves should they be required.
"We are fortunate to have skilled and intelligent players who, more importantly, are young men of very high character. This is a testament to the young men themselves, their parents, their wider whanau and their coaches in their local areas, at representative, school and at an individual level."
The teams will be preparing for two different pinnacle events in 2017. The New Zealand Under 16 Boys team will prepare for the Australia Junior Champs on 4 to 16 July in Sterling, Australia. The New Zealand Select Under 16 boys team will prepare for the Medibank Classic, held in Melbourne 8 – 13 June. Coach Coronel says prior to the pinnacle events, they will be looking to develop certainty and confidence in the teams' skill sets, understandings of the game and systems.
"The two teams have quickly become a very close group, so we will continue to operate as one large whanau celebrating each other’s success as much as possible. The May camp will be a joint camp but, as the two pinnacle events are quite far apart in terms of the dates, the final preparation camps will be separate.
"In terms of the competition we are primarily concerned with our own culture and our own play. We are working to become great basketball players and great basketball teams in our own right. If we can achieve this, I’ll be pleased and we will see how the results turn out at the two strong tournaments that are the Under 16 State Champs and the Medibank Classic," says Coach Coronel.
New Zealand Under 16 Boys Team:
New Zealand Select Under 16 Boys Team:
Reserves (for both teams):
U16 Camp | 18 - 21 January | Auckland
U16 Camp | 23 – 26 February | Auckland
U16 Camp | 26 - 29 April | Auckland
U16 Camp | 19 - 21 May | Auckland
NZ Under 16 ‘A’ Camp | 6 – 7 June | Auckland
NZ Select Tour | Medibank Classic | 8 - 13 June | Melbourne
NZ Under 16 Camp | 22 – 25 June | Auckland
Under 16 Australia Junior Champs | 6 – 16 July | Perth
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