Mitchell Dance was MVP in the National Secondary Schools basketball final last year. The power forward top scored for his triumphant Rosmini College team. What was the key moment in the tight decider against Rangitoto College?
“I honestly think it was the warm up. It was 2-2 against Rangitoto going into that match and we knew if we wanted to win we had to execute our plays. The boys were really focussed and I knew from that point on we were in good shape,” Dance reflects.
The New Zealand U17 basketball team departs for China this week to take part in the FIBA U16 Asian Championships in April.
The thirteen-team tournament is being held in Foshan and doubles as a qualifying tournament for the FIBA World Championships in Argentina later in the year.
New Zealand is grouped in Pool A along with China and defending champions Hong Kong. To make the World Championships the Kiwis require a top four finish. Dance has been selected and is quick to emphasize New Zealand will have to show a similar focus to Rosmini to accomplish their goal of a World Championship berth.
“We're in a tough group and are working hard. I think we've got a talented team. Some of the players to watch include Marvin Williams-Dunn my teammate from Rosmini, Tom Cowie and Jaylin To’o from Wellington,” Dance says.
Only one of the 12 players selected are from the South Island with half the roster playing in the Auckland Premiership that contributed the leading three schools at Nationals last year. The Kiwis head coach is Dave Bublitz from New Plymouth.
“I've worked with Dave before at the U16 state champs in Melbourne last year. He is a tough guy, a real hard competitor who knows the game and sets high expectations,” Dance acclaims.
Expectations are high at Rosmini College for another prosperous 2018 season. The team has been training since January an approach which is bore fruit last year.
“We're not the biggest team so we know we have to be able to move the ball quickly and be fitter than everyone else. If we can play a high speed, high skill game we'll be competitive,” Dance explains.
“We're still pretty young. We have five year 13’s back and have picked up Kainoa Lepou, a New Zealand teammate from Hamilton Boys,’ and Tom Seuren from St Paul’s Collegiate. Kruz Perrott-Hunt, Taine Murray and Jayden Boucher are all good players,” Dance continued.
Rosmini’s biggest loss is that of William Heather. The Auckland Premiership starts in term two after the Easter holidays.
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