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Kiwi Ballers Worldwide – Junior College Men’s & Women’s (23-24)

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.

11 Kiwi men and 14 women are playing junior college basketball in the 2023-24 American collegiate season, down on the 33 junior college athletes that played last season.

In the men’s division, sophomores (second year players) such as Tane Kirisome, Finn Lally, Jackson Smyth, Ezekiel Stallworth and Boston Caldwell will be keen to make an impression as they look to gain the attention of coaches and secure university scholarships.

Kirisome and Smyth will be familiar to Tall Blacks fans, as both were members of the Tall Blacks team that played Australia in Cairns in 2021; the Covid situation forcing this squad to be composed solely of Australian-based Kiwis for this Asia Cup Qualifying game.

Generally players only have two years of eligibility at junior college, and in the women’s division we see five of the fourteen Kiwis are sophomores – second year – for this coming season.

Waiata Jennings will be hoping to repeat the success she enjoyed in 2022-23, when she was named a NJCAA Division I Second Team All-American after averaging 16.4ppg and 5.9rpg – the Kiwi playing a major role as Collin College Lady Cougars set a school record for most wins with 29-3. The team also earned the college’s first ever at-large invitation to the NJCAA National Championship Tournament.

 

Women’s Junior College

 

Jyordanna Davey (Sophomore at Dodge City Community College)

Davey played 18 games in her freshman season at Auburn University at Montgomery immediately prior to joining Dodge City. The Wellington representative attended Wainuiomata High School and Sacred Heart College, and played for the New Zealand team at the 2022 FIBA Asian Championship in India.

Hayley Dawson (Sophomore at Jamestown Community College)

The former Tauranga City Basketball, Rotorua Basketball and Tauranga Girls College guard is entering her second season with Jamestown Hawks – she played 21 games in her freshman year.

Waiata Jennings (Sophomore at Collin College)

Jennings had an outstanding freshman season at Collin College in 2022-23. She was named to the NJCAA Division I Second Team All-American and the Conference MVP after averaging 16.4ppg and 5.9rpg. The Collin College Lady Cougars put together a 29-3 record and set a school record for most wins.

The Rotorua representative player finished her high school career at St Peter’s School, Cambridge by winning a Secondary Schools National Championship in 2019 and was named to the Tournament Team. She also led the Rotorua Lady Geysers to the 2021 D League title.

Zaaliyah Kailahi-Fulu (Sophomore at Chipola College)

The former St Mary’s Ponsonby and Harbour forward played her freshman season at Grayson Community College in Texas. She played for New Zealand at the 2018 FIBA Oceania Championship in Papua New Guinea. Sister Jazzmyne plays for the Northern Kahu in Tauihi.

Sydney Neale (Sophomore at Dyersberg State Community College)

The Hamilton Girls High School and Waikato representative guard played for New Zealand at the 2022 FIBA U18 Asian Championship in India.

 

Layla-J Cameron (Freshman at Dodge City Community College)

Cameron is a former Hillcrest Christian College and Queensland representative, who played for New Zealand at the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup in Hungary. Her father is Pero Cameron, a former Tall Black and the current head coach of the Tall Blacks, and her brothers Flynn and Tobias are both professional ballers.

Jaelah Clayton (Freshman at Mineral Area College, Missouri)

The North Harbour representative guard was a NZ Secondary Schools National Championship winner with Westlake Girls High School in 2022, with the team going unbeaten throughout the season.

Pania Davis (Freshman at New Mexico Junior College)

The Western Australia-raised Kiwi played two seasons of NBL1 with Rockingham Flames before linking with New Mexico JC. The 6’4” centre debuted for the Tall Ferns on their 2022 Australian tour.

Teuila Fa’alogo (Freshman at Utah State Eastern)

The former Huanui College student played for New Zealand at the 2022 FIBA U18 3×3 World Cup in Debrecen, Hungary. She has played representative basketball for both Northland Basketball and Harbour Basketball.

Opal Hardy-Pearce (Freshman at Garden City Community College)

Hardy-Pearce graduated from New Plymouth Girls High School in 2022, after five years on the senior team. She also played through the Taranaki age-group representative teams, and was named alongside mother Harriet on the 2021 Taranaki Thunder D League team from 2019-2022.

Allyah Leusogi-Ape (Freshman at Gillette College)

Leusogi-Ape played for New Zealand at the 2022 FIBA U18 Asian Championship in India. The Auckland representative guard attended Massey High School, and was a Development player with Northern Kāhu in 2022 – playing in three Tauihi games. Brother Dru-Leo plays for the Southland Sharks in the Sal’s NBL.

Shorna Preston (Freshman at Dodge City Community College)

Hailing from Christchurch, Preston played her junior representative basketball for Gold Coast and Hillcrest Christian College. She played 14 games for Red City Roar in NBL1 in 2023.

Qaizden Stephano (Freshman at Gillette College)

‘Q’ spent a year in Australia following high school, where she played for Red City Roar in the 2023 NBL1 North season. A former Carmel College, Takapuna Grammar School and Harbour forward, she also played for Samoa at the 2022 FIBA U18 Asian Championship in India.

Sharmaine Tapling (Freshman at Southwestern Community College)

Tapling joins the Southwestern Spartans after graduating from St Kentigern College in 2022. She played representative basketball for both Counties Manukau and Auckland.

 

Men’s Junior College

 

Boston Caldwell (Sophomore at Central Maine Community College)

In his freshman season, Caldwell led the Maine scoring in 2022-23 averaging 15.6ppg while shooting the three-ball at a 41.3% clip (45/109). She started 19 of 21 games for the Mustangs, scoring a season-high 38 points against Berkeley.

Tane Kirisome (Sophomore at Neosho County Community College)

Kirisome played 16 games with 10 starts, and averaged 11.2ppg in his freshman year at Neosho County. He played for the Tall Blacks against Australia in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Cairns in 2021. Schooled in Brisbane, Kirisome played for Logan Thunder in NBL 1; his sister Jade played for Whai in the 2023 Tauihi Aotearoa League.

Finn Lally (Sophomore at Trinidad State College)

Out of Waikato Basketball and St John’s College, Lally linked up with the Trojans in mid-season of 2021-22 – starting 10 of 31 games for Trinidad State in 2022-23 and scoring 286 points. He played for New Zealand at the 2019 FIBA U17 Oceania Championships in New Caledonia.

Jackson Smyth (Sophomore at Santa Rosa Junior College)

Prior to Santa Rosa, Smyth played at Southern Oregon University. The son of former Tall Black Haydn Smyth, he grew up in Sydney playing for the Manly Warringah club and also played three games for the Auckland Huskies in 2021. In 2020 he was named to the Junior Tall Blacks squad.

Ezekiel Stallworth (Sophomore at Santa Rosa College)

Out of Scots College and Wellington Basketball, Stallworth played at South Kent Academy, Ohio last season. In 2018 was selected to attend the Basketball Without Borders Asia Cam, and in 2019 he played for New Zealand at the FIBA U17 Oceania Championship in New Caledonia.

Rocco Chang (Freshman at Central Maine Community College)

Chang begins his collegiate career playing alongside his former Harbour and Westlake Boys High School teammate Boston Caldwell. The pair played for Harbour in the 2022 U19 National Championship Grand Final loss to Canterbury.

Tyrael-Cage Heke (Freshman at Baton Rouge Community College)

The former Fraser High School and Waikato representative was a Development Player for the Franklin Bulls in 2021 and Wellington Saints in 2022. In 2022, he was named to the New Zealand U18 team.

Cory Lovell (Freshman at Harcum College, Philadelphia)

After graduating from Hutt International High School, Lovell headed to Italy to attend College Prep Academy. He was a Development Player with the Wellington Saints in 2022.

Justin Sapoi (Freshman at Northeastern Community College)

The 6’11” Aucklander graduated from Mount Roskill Grammar School in 2019 before embarking on his Mormon mission in Ghana. Sapoi played basketball and American Football at Kearns High School in Utah (2017-18), and returns to the basketball court as a freshman at Northeastern.

Siosiua “Sini” Tu’akoi (Freshman at Clarendon College)

The former Selwyn College and Auckland Basketball representative forward is headed to Clarendon College Bulldogs in Texas for his freshman season.

Denim Tuala-Fata (Freshman at College of Marin, California)

Tuala-Fata won a Secondary Schools 3×3 National title at Hastings Boys High before concluding his NZ high school career at Palmerston North Boys High School. The power forward played at St Thomas Moore High School in Connecticut before gaining a scholarship at the College of Marin.

 

*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.