Aniwaniwa Tait-Jones often travels to the US to further his basketball ambitions. A self confessed basketball tragic with considerable ability, Tait-Jones hardly played last year while a student at Rongotai College.
In 2018, Tait-Jones has helped St Patrick’s College, Wellington reach the Nationals, something they failed to achieve last year.
“Rongotai didn’t really work out for me. I had some personal things going on so I didn’t play.” Tait-Jones explains.
“I was training though so I was in shape to play. I was unsure how things would go at Town. I knew a lot of the boys from basketball, but settling into a new system took time,” he continued.
The Town system is implemented by coaches Brendon Polyblank (a former Tall Black) and Damien Ekenasio (Wellington Saints General Manager). It has suited Tait-Jones play. In addition to being the captain he is the leading scorer on the team and has assembled an impressive array of season highlights.
Tait-Jones single game season high is 46 points while he also amassed 38 against Rongotai and 33 in a 99-66 drubbing of Wellington College. However Tait-Jones identifies his 40-point haul against Scots College in the Pohlen Cup semi-final as a personal highlight.
“There was a lot of trash talk on social media before the Scots game. I try to lead by example and stay out of it, but the rivalry with Scots is intense. They’re a good team and we trailed for most of the match. I had to step up and take over. My shots started to drop and we got up,” Tait-Jones recalls.
In the final against Rongotai College, Tait-Jones scored 24 points, but it wasn’t enough to stop a rampant Rongotai.
“They were too good. When they get on a roll and hit every shot it’s pretty hard to stop. They caught fire and deserved their win,” Tait-Jones acclaimed.
“I was proud of the way our guys hung in. We clawed it back before they stretched again. Our best performance of the season was when we beat them in the round robin. We lost a tight game to them at regionals by eight so points we can match them,” Tait-Jones elaborated.
Zone 3 champions, Napier Boys’ High School, Cashmere High School, Tauranga Boys’ College and Waimea College are among the teams in the Town group for Nationals. Despite nobody on the Town roster having previous experience at Nationals, Tait-Jones is hopeful Town could advance to the top eight.
“I think we were a bit lucky with our pool. If you look at some of the other groups they are very tough. Rongotai is grouped with Rosmini and MAGS and Hamilton Boys’ are with Auckland Grammar. Our pool will be tough, no doubt, but Napier only beat Rongotai by five and the other teams didn’t win their zone so if we play our best we’ve got a shot,” Tait-Jones observers.
Tait-Jones is a member of the New Zealand Basketball Academy and is closely mentored by Kenny McFadden (a key figure in the ascent of Steven Adams).
Tait-Jones stands 6 ft 6 and boasts a wing span of 6 ft 10, attending the Steven Adams Basketball camp for the leading 20 high school players in New Zealand. The US is a dseried horizon.
“I’d love to get a scholarship or a free education in the US. I’ve been lucky to go to New York and California to play in tournaments. Through Kenny and the New Zealand Academy I have trained with US trainers which has been great for my game,” Tait-Jones concluded.
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