“I hope I am somebody to look up to,” Josh Aitcheson responded when asked how he dealt with being easily the best player in the King’s High School basketball team last year.
The Junior Tall Blacks (Under-19) selection played 105 games at a college which isn’t exactly a national powerhouse.
“It’s was challenge at times, but there were good players at King’s and the coaches always pushed me that little bit extra. Everybody tried their hardest and we won more than we lost and that’s all you can ask for.” Aitcheson continued.
Former Otago Nuggets coach Alf Arlidge was mentoring King’s. He had twin sons in the team.
Aitcheson was selected for the First V at Year 9. The 1.98cm small forward soon put himself on the national radar with some spectacular performances. He scored 60 points in a single game against Nelson College and was a leading figure in King’s win over Rangiora High School to get to Nationals in 2015. At those Nationals, Aitcheson scored 42 of King’s 61 points alone against Christchurch Boys’ High School.
“Three years ago I was selected by Judd Flavell to go to Hoop Nation in China. That was my first international trip and a real eye opener.” Aitcheson admits.
Aitcheson helped King’s to a 19th placed finish at Nationals last year and his dominance has earned him selection for the Southland Sharks in the NBL.
“The NBL has been a massive step up playing faster, stronger men not just from New Zealand, but the imports are really good to. I won’t be involved in the playoffs, but we are hopeful of ending the Saints unbeaten run.” Aitcheson enthuses.
Last December the Junior Tall Blacks beat Australia for the first time at the Oceania qualifying tournament in Fiji to earn their place at the World Championships in Egypt in July.
The win in Suva, Fiji, was led by Canterbury’s Quinn Clinton and Wellington’s Taane Samuel, who both came up with clutch plays at the end to seal the victory.
Clinton landed two threes as the match swung back and forth in the final 90 seconds.
His second three gave his side a 53-51 advantage. Clinton had been fouled on the shot but missed the resulting free throw only for Samuel to score on a put back.
After Australia missed a couple of scoring opportunities Samuel iced the game with a pair of free throws. The final score was 57-51.
“I come off the bench in that game, but it was great to be a part of it. The best thing the coaches did in the tournament is keep everybody guessing as to who the top team was so we were forced to work hard the whole time.” Aitcheson revealed.
New Zealand has a four day build up camp in Auckland from June 10 and then travels to China to compete in a warm up tourney against Lithuania and an American outfit consisting of leading high school talent.
New Zealand received a tough draw for pool play, with one of the gold medal favourites France, South American powerhouse Argentina and world No 15 ranked South Korea to contend with.
However in Callum McRae, Angus McWilliam, Sam Waardenburg and Tai Wynyard New Zealand have four players standing 2.08 metres or taller.
“We’re confident we can compete and get through the pool play. It will be tough, but we have been working real hard and have some serious talent. The guys in the US will be a great addition,” Aitcheson forecasts.
Aitcheson studies law and finance at Otago University.
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