In this edition of Kiwi Ballers Worldwide, we turn the spotlight on the Kiwi men and women playing NAIA, NCAA Division III and Canadian University basketball.
The numbers of New Zealanders choosing these pathways compare favourably with last season, particularly across the men’s programmes; with 22 men and 4 women spread across these three pathways, compared to 19 and 3 in 2022.
NCAA Division III
Nabil Kone (Junior at North Park University, Chicago)
The Mali born, Rotorua Boys High-educated forward played 58 games for Trinity International University Trojans in his two years on the programme. Unfortunately the TIU athletics programme closed, so Kone has transferred to North Park for the 2023-24 season.
Lachie MacFarlane (Junior at Orbelin College, Ohio)
Former Rangiora High School guard McFarlane will again play for Orbelin College Yeoman in the North Coast Athletic Conference, after making 5 appearances in the 2022-23 season. McFarlane was Head Boy at Rangiora in his senior year in 2019.
Jackson Rhodes (Sophomore at Earlham College)
Played 17 games with 5 starts for West Virginia Wesleyan College as a freshman in 2022, but has since transferred to Earlham College. Out of St Andrew’s College in Christchurch, Rhodes was a member of the extended Canterbury Rams squad in 2022. He was also named to the Canterbury U19 team in 2022.
Hunter Bates (Freshman at Colby-Sawyer College)
Another former St Pat’s Silverstream player, Bates a 6’4” guard, is embarking on his first season of collegiate basketball.
Tom Harrison (Freshman at Connecticut College)
Scored a game-high 38 points as Christ’s College defeated Rosmini College in the 2022 Secondary Schools National Championship Final – named to the Tournament Team. Harrison was also a member of the Canterbury team that claimed the 2022 U19 National Championship title. He made three appearances for the Canterbury Rams in the 2023 Sal’s NBL.
Holly Morgan (Freshman at Whitman College)
Morgan was a member of the Tokomanawa Queens extended squad in 2022-23. She was also a key member of the Queen Mary’s College team that won the 2021 Secondary Schools 3×3 National Championship, and a Wellington age-group rep from 2018-23.
Josh Stewart (Freshman at Knox College, Illinois)
In 2022, Stewart led Sacred Heart College to their first ever appearance at the NZ Secondary Schools National Championship. Following high school, he played at College Prep Academy in Italy, and he also appeared for Waitakere West at the 2023 U19 National Championships.
Harry Weston (Freshman at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology)
The former Cashmere High School guard played on the 2022 Canterbury U17 National Championship-winning team.
NAIA Division I
Nico Hill (Senior at Missouri Baptist University)
Out of Opunake High School in Taranaki, Hill previously played at Missouri State University West Plains – making 71 appearances with 49 starts for the Grizzlies, scoring 509 points. He played all 30 games for Missouri Baptist in 2022-23, scoring 214 points and was second on the team in rebounding with 4.3rpg.
Finn McClure (Senior at Milligan University)
The former Rongotai College and Wellington guard has made 39 starts in 59 appearances for Milligan, scoring 414 points and dishing out 165 assists. McClure will again play alongside fellow Wellingtonians Sam Gold and Piripi Korent at Milligan University.
Maxim Stephens (Senior at Rocky Mountain College, Montana)
The former Waikato and Hamilton Boys High forward has carved out a fine career at Rocky Mountain, making 59 appearances with 37 starts – averaging 11.7ppg and 6.2rpg. Stephens led the Rocky in scoring (14.4ppg) and rebounding (6.6rpg) in 2022-23 and named to the Frontier Conference First Team alongside Kael Robinson. He is the son of former Tall Black Neil Stephens.
Sam Gold (Junior at Milligan University)
After graduating from Tawa College in 2020, Gold played the 2021-22 year at Holy Names University. He started 26 of 27 games in 2022-23 for Milligan University Buffalos, tallying 293 points at 10.9ppg. Gold will again play alongside fellow Wellingtonians Finn McClure and Piripi Korent at Milligan; his Brother Ben plays at Marquette.
Piripi Korent (Junior at Milligan University)
The former St Pat’s College Silverstream forward has played 33 games with 11 starts in his two years at Milligan. Korent will again play alongside fellow Wellingtonians Finn McClure and Sam Gold at Milligan.
Kael Robinson (Junior at Rocky Mountain College, Montana)
One of three Kiwis on the Rocky roster, alongside fellow Waikato native Maxim Stephens and Cameron Quinnell. Robinson played 50 games in his two seasons, scoring 487 points; he averaged 11.9ppg in 2022-23 and named to the Frontier Conference First Team. The former St John’s College wing played 14 games for the Wellington Saints in 2021 and 15 for Franklin Bulls in 2022.
Rashaan Smith (Junior at Oklahoma Wesleyan University)
The former Birkenhead College and Harbour forward played at Western Nebraska College and Dawson College prior to Oklahoma Wesleyan. In 2022, Smith helped Western Nebraska go all the way to the Junior College National Championship semi-final.
Dominique Stephens (Junior at Rocky Mountain College, Montana)
Stephens played 32 games for Rocky as they went all the way to the NAIA National Championships in 2021-22. He played a further 28 games in 2022-23, averaging 9ppg, a team-high 5.9rpg and 1.1 blocks per game. Stephens played on the St Peter’s, Cambridge 2019 Secondary Schools National Championship winning team. Her father Neil is a former Tall Black and brother Maxim plays on the Rocky Mountain men’s team.
Ezra Vaigafa (Junior at Benedictine College)
Vaigafa has transferred to Benedictine College Ravens after playing two years at Neosho County Community College, where he made 46 appearances with 44 starts. Formerly at Rongotai College, Vaigafa concluded his high school career at Box Hill College in Melbourne. He played for New Zealand at the 2019 FIBA U17 Oceania Championships in New Caledonia. Played 17 games for the Wellington Saints in the 2021 Sal’s NBL season.
Braydon Iuli (Sophomore at Menlo College)
Started 6 of the 28 games he played for Menlo in 2022-23, averaging 6.5ppg. Iuli played 6 games for the Franklin Bulls in the 2021 Sal’s NBL season whilst still in year 13 at Tauranga Boys High School. He played all 21 games for the Auckland Tuatara in 2022, averaging 7.7ppg and shooting a team-high 40% (22/55) from the 3-point arc.
Garth Jepsen (Redshirt Freshman at Oakland City University)
Out of Tauranga Boys College, Jepsen played just 5 games for Oakland City in 2022-23 due to injury; as a result he will repeat his freshman year in 2023-24. He also played a couple of games for Nelson Giants in the 2022 Sal’s NBL season.
Caleb Landon (Freshman at Our Lady of the Lake University)
Redshirted the 2022-23 season at Our Lady of the Lake. Landan graduated from Auckland Grammar School in 2021, and was a member of the extended Franklin Bulls squad in the 2022 NBL season.
Cameron Quinnell (Freshman at Rocky Mountain College, Montana)
Taranaki forward Cameron Quinnell will link up with the Waikato duo of Maxim Stephens and Kael Robinson at Rocky Mountain. He was named MVP at the 2022 Secondary Schools National Championship, as Ōpunake High School claimed the Boy’s A title. Quinnell also played 5 games for the Taranaki Airs in the 2022 Sal’s NBL season.
Hayden Collier (5th Year Senior at University of Regina)
Collier played two years at Laramie College after graduating from Rangiora High School. The Cantabrian forward has made 30 appearances for University of Regina Cougars.
Alex Blackmore (Sophomore at Nipissing University)
The former St Pat’s Silverstream wing spent some time at DME Sports Academy, Florida before Castleton – where he accumulated 244 points in 35 appearances with 19 starts. Now in his first season at Nipissing University.
River Drefers (Sophomore at Memorial University)
The former Selwyn College and Auckland representative guard made 20 appearances, with 11 starts for the Memorial University Sea Hawks in 2022-23. In 2021 he was a member of the 2021 New Zealand U18 squad.
Patrick Freeman (Freshman at University of Northern British Columbia)
The former Tawa College and Wellington Basketball forward played 7 games for the Nuggets in the 2023 Sal’s NBL season, while studying at Otago University. UNBC assistant coach is Dale Dergousoff, who played for Northland in the NZNBL in the 1990’s.
Hineaupounamu “Missy” Nuku (Freshman at Lakeland University)
The former Te Wharekura o Tauranga Moana standout, Nuku was MVP at the 2022 Aon U19 National Championships as she led Waikato to the title. She played for Whai in the 2022 Tauihi Aotearoa Basketball and the 3×3 Schick Cup. Prior to heading to Canada, Nuku played for Tauranga City Coasters at the 2023 D League Tournament.
*Note this list is of players known at the time of writing. It’s possible there may be some players absent from this list with players often moving, or travelling to the US without publicising their plans, or may yet to be announced by teams.