College coaches impressed with Kiwi talent

As in previous years, there are several coaches from American NCAA Division 1 Universities attending the 2019 Schick Secondary Schools National Championships.

The growing reputation of basketball in New Zealand and the ever-improving quality of the Schick Championships makes Palmerston North, in the first week of October, a favoured destination for many college coaches.

Lee Cummard,  Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach at Brigham Young University (BYU), is relishing his first visit to New Zealand.

“We have a long track record with girls from New Zealand and currently we have seniors Shalae Salmon, Kaedin Taito and Kaylee Smiler who is a freshman.

“All three are great people, great teammates, they know the game and they play the game the right way and we are trying to add a few more of them.

“All of the things that I have mentioned are factored into whether young ladies can fit into our culture and our programme.

“Talent has to be there, the athletic ability has to be there but the teammate, the hard work, the coachability are all elements we consider.”

Tall Fern Kalani Purcell was also a standout player at BYU where she set numerous records. Purcell became BYU’s single-season record holder in total rebounds (416) in 2016.  In her final season the following year she averaged 12.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, earning the 2016-17 WCC Defensive Player of the Year award.

“Kalani had a great career and really put her stamp on the programme while she was there.

“The girls that we have had from New Zealand are terrific and I’m not surprised now that I have been here and interacted with the people of New Zealand – they are very friendly, nice people,” he added.

Cummard is a little surprised there are not more coaches at the Schick Champs, including representatives from the BYU Men’s programme.

“I’m here to recruit on the women’s side of things but I couldn’t help watch some of the men’s games and I have already called my guys back at BYU and told them you should be down here.

“I’ve seen a number of players who are Division 1 level, I’ve been impressed.”

Another advantage of visiting coaches is the central location and a large number of teams attending a single event. There are over 800 young athletes from 62 different schools camped in the lower North Island for the week.

“All the talent from the country is here in one building and that makes it easy for a coach. I love it, everything is right here and I can see it,” added Cummard.

In contrast to Cummard, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at University of Portland Ben Johnson has been to New Zealand on many occasions and he also sees the advantage of coming to the tournament.

“You can see a lot of kids in a few days all under one roof, it’s sort of a one-stop-shop.

“This is my fourth or fifth trip to New Zealand – basketball has been good to me.

“I was here three years ago in 2016 and saw Auckland Grammar School play and we actually took an athlete from that event, Taki Fahrensohn, who is now with us at the University of Portland.

“Taki is now in his third year on the programme and we are looking forward to him having a big year for us.

“He’s put on about 15 pounds of good muscle and can really shoot the ball.”

Could we see another Kiwi on the Portland roster in the future Johnson was asked?

“From what I have seen hopefully four or five of them as there is some really good talent here.

“I’ve been really impressed with the level of skill, their ability to play an unselfish team concept of basketball.

“It’s a style that fits into our philosophy at Portland so I’m really excited with what I have seen here.

“I’ve been telling people for the last four years to look out for New Zealand, their basketball is really on the upswing,” Johnson added.

Also experiencing the upswing this week and running the rule over the talent on display are Aaron Fearne (New Zealand Under 17 Men’s Head Coach and Assistant Men’s Coach at University of North Carolina, Charlotte), Ray Stewart (BYU Assistant Women’s Coach) and Valerie Mainima (Fordham University Assistant Women’s Coach).



The draw, pools and future live stream timings can be found here.


Four games are being live streamed every day on the Fly Palmy Arena court. These can be watched on either our website or Facebook page.


Results from today’s fixtures will be updated after each round and can be found at the link below.

‘A’ Tournament Dates: September 30 – October 3 – click here

‘AA’ Tournament Dates: September 30 – October 5 – click here


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