Corban Laban-Palmer is head prefect of Tauranga Boys’ College. Unusually he is an out of zone student, but remarkably the top five prefects in 2021 are all outside selections.
“I remember I had to have an interview to get into the school. I can’t even remember what I said, my parents did most of the talking. It was all a bit strange. I think I got in via the ballot,” Laban-Palmer recalls.
Overcoming bemusement swiftly, Laban-Palmer established a foothold in basketball. As a junior he helped Tauranga win a North Island 3x3 title and this year is captain of an undefeated senior team who recently won the Super 8 competition for the first time since 2009 in Rotorua.
It was a eureka moment for a talented team guilty of underwhelming in the recent past.
“Our build up to Super 8 was a bit dysfunctional. Some of the players were getting a bit casual because we were winning games in the local men's league easily. We had a meeting to address that and it got a bit heated.
“Our team is primarily based on last year's team. We are much stronger, more experienced. We train in the mornings, but had to have a bit of an honesty session.”
Tauranga beat Palmerston North Boys’ High School 105-84 in the final, having earlier accounted for Palmerston North 87-76 in pool play.
“The first game was a bit of an unknown for both teams. We spent the first-half getting a feel for their zone and strategy and were able to capitalise on their weaknesses in the second-half.
“In the final we played transition. We're a good shooting team who likes to play fast and move the ball. Because we knew their strengths and weaknesses from the outset we were less hesitant."
Nearest rivals Rotorua Boys' High School had reason to provide Tauranga with hesitancy in the semi-finals. On their home court they boasted a skyscraper weapon who was productive early.
“They had this huge Nigerian who was six foot nine and really hard to stop. When they started hitting outside shots too it was tough. We had to outsmart them because they were stronger, bigger and quicker than us. We moved the ball a lot, hit some shots, and our fitness got the better of them.”
The final score was 99-88 to Tauranga, their narrowest victory of the tourney. Commentator Ben O'Brien-Leaf calling the action for Sideline was most impressed with what he witnessed from Laban-Palmer.
“Corban is very quick up and down, gusty taking the ball to the basket fearlessly against all comers. His much smaller team beat Palmerston North with all-round quickness and athleticism. I thought they were magnificent.”
“I think our biggest strength is adaptability. We play men in Tauranga and do a lot of interschool exchanges which brings us into contact with lots of different styles and referees,” Laban-Palmer said.
Braydon Iueli played for the Franklin Bulls in the National Basketball League and was top points scorer at the National Under-23 championships. He’s been in commanding form for Tauranga in 2021. In addition to Super 8, Tauranga have knocked over powerful outfits like Westlake Boys’ High School, Auckland Grammar School and New Plymouth Boys’ High School. They also won the Tauranga City Basketball Association Premier Men's Competition. Their best placing at Nationals is fifth.
“Our goal is to make the top four of Nationals, but we are not getting too far ahead of ourselves. It feels like our season has only just started. Winning Super 8 was big for us.”
Sharp shooter Izaak Taula and high flyer Garth Jepsen have been other standouts this season.
The role of head boy entails serious responsibility.
“I never expected any leadership roles. I just did my own thing. Because I’m half Samaon I guess I have that respectful Samoan, manner. I just try to be true to who I am and show qualities I like in others.”
Corban grew up in Wellington before shifting to Papamoa. His father Lennie is an engineer and mother Annette is a primary school teacher. Uncle Ken Laban is a rugby commentator on Sky TV.
Tauranga Boys’ College Super 8 Results
Palmerston North BHS, 87-76
Hastings BHS, 105-72
Napier BHS, 90-68
Rotorua BHS, 99-88 (Semi)
Palmerston North BHS, 105-84 (Final)
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