Basketball is tipping off around the country as winter sports kick into gear. Girls basketball looks set to be dominated by St Peter’s Cambridge, who boast Charlisse Leger-Walker already an accomplished Tall Fern, and Queen Margaret College who have acquired three players from capital rivals St Mary’s College. Here are five names to closely monitor.
Charlisse Leger-Walker (St Peter’s Cambridge) - Scored 48 of her side’s 62 points in the National final which St Peter’s narrowly lost to St Mary’s College, Wellington having won the previous two years. Leger-Walker is only in Year 12, but is already a household name in New Zealand basketball having last year became the youngest Tall Fern ever and in April helping New Zealand win a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games. Leger-Walker top scored with 18 points in the third place playoff. Back from the Gold Coast, Leger-Walker recently top-scored with 22 points in the Waikato Wizards 56-50 win over the Auckland Dream in the women’s National competition.
Ella Bradley (St Peter’s Cambridge) -The most accomplished teammate of Charlisse Leger-Walker, Bradley has been a New Zealand U17 representative and twice National Secondary Schools champion, earning tournament team selection in 2017. A great ball handler and sharp shot, Bradley puts Leger-Walker in great position to score, but can be extremely dangerous when she captures fire herself.
Helen Matthews (Kaiapoi High School) - Kaiapoi High School isn’t a powerhouse in New Zealand secondary schools basketball, but in Helen Matthews they have a powerhouse player. Matthews plays for the North Canterbury Women's premier side and has represented various South Island outfits and last year made the New Zealand Under-17’s. At the Whelan Trophy in July last year the 16-year-old was described by her coaches as “a beast on the court.”
Sharne Pupuke-Robati (Mount Albert Grammar School) - The New Zealand U17 rep was a key figure in MAGS' drive to the 2016 National final which they lost competitively to St Peter’s Cambridge. A robust defender, swift ball handler and good shoot, MAGS will build their 2018 team around Pupuke-Robati and should be a genuine contender for the title in Auckland.
Grace Hunter (Queen Margaret College) - Hunter’s achievements in 2017 were considerable being named Wellington Girls Basketballer of the Year and earning selection for the New Zealand U18 Women’s Team. Hunter was the captain of St Mary’s national title winning team last year, but has switched to Queen Margaret College with New Zealand age group reps Paris Lokotui and Te Araroa Sopoaga. QMC beat St Mary’s College 71-22 last Friday.
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