Despite the COVID-19 pandemic causing havoc to sporting programmes around the world, almost sixty Kiwi women are currently playing college basketball in the States, with many of them having embarked on their first year in challenging circumstances.
One of the freshmen, Charlisse Leger-Walker, is enjoying a prolific season at Washington State University with her accomplishments, and those of sister Krystal, highlighted by Marc Hinton in Stuff and a full-page article in the New Zealand Herald on Saturday, not to mention countless other media reports and social media groups here and in the US.
After her latest performance, Charlisse may be in line for her seventh Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award. She amassed 29 points (4/9 3PG, 9/12FT) in Washington’s 67-61 loss at Arizona State. Remarkably, the Tall Ferns guard has scored 20 points or more in 10 of her first 18 collegiate games, averages 19.5 points per game and leads the Pac-12 in scoring.
Emme Shearer, another freshman, scored 10 points (4/6FG) in Portland’s narrow 69-67 home win against Pacific. The former Westlake guard has started the last six games for Portland with the Pilots winning three of those games to move to 7-6 in West Coast Conference (WCC) play.
Also, in the West Coast Conference BYU visited St Mary’s, California with no fewer than five Kiwis on show. The duo of Tegan Graham (7 points) and Kaylee Smiler left the happier with BYU gaining a 79-61 win to remain second on the WCC ladder with a 10-2 record.
It was a disappointing loss for the St Mary’s trio of Tayla Dalton (two points), Jade Kirisome and Amy West. However, there would have been a degree of relief for West as she was making her first appearance since November having been sidelined with a shoulder injury for over two months. The 2019 Tall Fern made an encouraging return accumulating nine points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes of action.
Over in the Atlantic 10 Conference, Kendell Heremaia is enjoying a productive season at Fordham University. The Rams (8-2) won a fifth straight game defeating Saint Joseph’s 51-36. Heremaia finished with 12 points and six rebounds and is now just four boards shy of 100 for the season and 600 for her Fordham career.
However, the Fordham programme is the latest to be put on hold due to a spike in COVID-19 cases on campus.
In the Atlantic 10 Conference Virginia Commonwealth University’s Akienne-Tera Reed scored 10 points and helped pushed league leaders Dayton all the way before falling 67-62. Reed, closing in on 1400 career points, also produced four assists and 2 blocks for 7-4 VCU.
There are a record number of New Zealand women playing Junior College basketball this season. The tally is 31 and whilst there isn’t room to list the records of every player in this article, here are just a few recent standout efforts.
No fewer than six players featured in Southern Idaho’s 64-52 success against Utah State Eastern. For the victors, Kaitlyn Burgess continued her good scoring form and Ashlee Strawbridge demonstrated her rebounding prowess.
Burgess finished with 15 points (6/8FG) and Strawbridge eight rebounds to go with six points, while Kyra Paniora scored a couple of points.
For Utah State, Brooklyn Pouwhare secured a pair of rebounds, Hannah Wentworth scored six points and Ella Bradley made four points to go with five rebounds.
There was a break-out performance from Cantabrian Molly Cockburn on the weekend. She nailed all four of her three-point shots on her way to a season best 17 points as Miles Community College climbed over Rocky Mountain 78-42. Although, the well beaten former St Peter’s and Waikato forward Dominique Stephens peaked the Rocky effort with 12 points and eight rebounds.
The North Harbour pairing of Jazz Kailahi-Fulu and Keeley Tini continue to carry a heavy load for Williston State College. In their 61-55 road win at Dakota at Bottineau they scored half the team’s points and secured 50 per cent of the rebounds also.
Kailahi-Fulu finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists while Tini produced 14 points and eight rebounds. The pair are leading Williston’s scoring this season, each averaging a shade over 14 points per game.
In Europe, the Dutch League is back underway and Gracie Roberts-Hare had seven points and four rebounds as her club, Lekdetec, defeated Keijser Capital 70-49 to move to second on the league table.
Former Tall Fern Jillian Harmon, playing her 11th season in the Italian Serie A, has helped Familia Wuber Schio to second place on the league ladder. In their most recent game, Schio beat Broni 101-69 with the experienced Harmon tallying 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists.