One of Basketball New Zealand’s big annual age-group basketball championships tips off on Saturday 1 June, with a swathe of talented New Zealand representatives suiting up in their provincial colours.
The Aon Under 19 Nationals are seen as a pinnacle event for young players soon to be departing for universities and colleges.
Leading insurance broker Aon is sponsoring the tournament again for the third year running. CEO Geoff Blampied says Aon is excited to be involved with one of the fastest growing secondary-school sports in the country.
“We are delighted to continue our support of aspiring young basketball players across New Zealand. We look forward to seeing them all in action and wish everyone participating in the U19 Nationals the best of luck,” he says.
All Court One games on the Monday and Tuesday will be livestreamed on www.nz.baskteball/tv and the @BasketballNZ facebook channel. Stuff.co.nz will also lievstream the Grand Finals.
The men’s draw consists of 16 teams spread across four pools. In the women’s competition, Pool A has four teams and Pool B has five. The top qualifiers from each pool will go directly into the quarter-final draw. The second and third placed teams from each pool will cross-over and compete in preliminary quarter-finals for the men and preliminary semi-finals for the women.
New Zealand representatives are scattered across the men’s draw, with most falling in the Harbour A camp with names like Harrison Payne, Marvin Williams-Dunn, Sam Mennenga, Sean Murphy, Taine Murray and Reihana Maxwell-Topia. Add to that a number of names who featured in the 2018 Schick Championships winning Rosmini College side. The team is coached by Matt Lacey, who is Rosmini College’s head coach and the winner of the Basketball New Zealand Male Coach of the Year Award for 2018.
Also in Pool D, Auckland will mount a strong challenge and Manawatu will be looking for a good showing having been runners-up last year. Auckland won the Zone 1 Premierships and will be setting themselves lofty goals. Watch out for Logan McIntosh, Shalom Broughton, Alex McNaught and Junior Tall Black Jaga Mete-Smith. Manawatu will look to Jake McKinlay and point guard Kopere Tanoa for leadership.
Wellington will certainly be looking to disrupt the likely North-of-the-Bombay’s onslaught. Eziekiel Stallworth was recently named to the NZ U17 team and he will see plenty of minutes alongside Haven Dixon, Jaylin To’o, Piripi Korent and Finn McClure. McClure, who has taken the court for the Cigna Saints in the Sal’s NBL this year, had a standout Aon U19 Nationals in 2018, but felt the pain of defeat in the semi-final against Waitaha Canterbury despite his 21 points in that game.
Expect unheralded Waitakere West and Northland to be competitive in Pool B. Coach Ray Cameron will be looking to Devon Mills, Reef Churches, Riley Dyer and Tu Kaha Cooper to lead from the front for Northland.
The 2018 Aon Nationals Champions, Waitaha Canterbury, will be looking to defend their title for the second year running. New Zealand age-group reps Mac Stodart and Samuel Jenkins will need to be on form if they are to pull this one off against the North Island powers. Hutt Valley, North Otago and Otago will be looking to make life difficult for the title holders in Pool A.
Finn Lally, recently named in the NZ U17 team and 2018 Junior Tall Black Kainoa Lepou will head the Waikato A bid to progress from Pool B. Tasman, Harbour B and the Clifton Bush coached Hawkes Bay outfits lie in wait for the ‘Mooloo Men’.
Aon Nationals Men’s Pools:
• Pool A: Waitaha Canerbury A, Hutt Valley, North Otago, Otago
• Pool B: Hawkes Bay, Waikato A, Tasman, Harbour B
• Pool C: Wellington, Waitakere West, Waitaha Canterbury B, Northland
• Pool D: Auckland, Harbour A, Waikato B, Manawatu
International duty means that Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato), Tayla Dalton (Harbour), Sharne Pupuke-Robati (Auckland Dream) and Ashlee Strawbridge (Waitaha Canterbury) will be absent from the Women’s Tournament. The four are playing at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup in Mongolia.
Leger-Walker’s absence will be felt by Waikato as they look for a three-peat. However the Waikato coaching force of 2018 Female Coach of the Year Leanne Walker and Anthony Corban will still have the sharp shooting talents of New Zealand junior rep Ella Bradley to call on. Her Waikato Wizards NZWBC team-mates Kasee Leef, Koha Lewis, Quaye Walker-Eketone and Riva Walker-Pitman will be doing all they can to repeat the triumphs of 2017 and 2018.
Also in Pool A Wellington will also be a major threat. Paris Lokotui, Samatha Jenkins and Te Araroa Sopoaga will bring their unshakable competitiveness to this event.
Taranaki is another team to watch with New Zealand age-group reps Caitlin O’Connell and Isabelle Cook forming a formidable duo. Team-mates Emily Poole, Alix Blyde, Tiaan Owen and Raquel Sampson also know what it takes to win a National title, having done so when they claimed the Aon Under 17 National Basketball Championships last year. They’ll be led by NZ U17 Women’s Assistant Coach Shay Hira.
Rounding out Pool A are Tasman who boast Hannah Crabtree, Olivia Daniel and Kate Dohmen with senior experience playing for Nelson Sparks last year.
Despite the loss of Dalton, Harbour A will again bring an experienced side. Emme Shearer, Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu, Jordyn Maddix, Tessa Talo-Tomokino and Jessica Moors have all played international basketball in the last 12 months. There is also a strong family connection with Mareta Davidson. Her Mum Bronwyn will be coaching with sister and Tall Fern Penina Davidson will be supporting from afar. The ever inspiring Fata Letoa will also guide from the Assistant Coach role.
Harbour will face opposition in Pool B from Waitaha Canterbury, Auckland Dream, Otago and Manawatu.
2017 runners-up Waitaha Canterbury could bring something new to the event with Mel Downer coaching. Helen Matthews, Rosalia Samia and Sophie Adams have all played for the Canterbury Wildcats this season and will surely play pivotal roles for the red and black.
The U19 Auckland Dream team will be led by the same coaches as the NZWBC side. Aik Ho and Tania Hunter will be bringing the depth of their Auckland programme to Dunedin, with WBC player Shauna Povey a key player for the Dream.
Harata Coleman and Rochelle Fourie have gained valuable experience playing for Taranaki Thunder this season so expect veteran coach Joe Frost to lean heavily on the pair as Manawatu bid for a play-off spot.
Likewise Otago’s Hannah Matehaere has seen WBC playing time this season for Otago Gold Rush. She will need support from Alex Bennett and Dre Whaanga if Otago are to make a telling impression.
Aon Nationals women’s pools:
• Pool A: Waikato, Taranaki, Wellington, Tasman.
• Pool B: Harbour A, Waitaha Canterbury, Auckland Dream, Otago, Manawatu