*The FIBA Women’s Asia Cup begins on Monday 27th September*
Story by Mike Lacey
Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats guard Lauryn Hippolite can’t quite believe that she has been included in the Sky Sport Tall Ferns team for the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup.
Speaking to the 21 year-old on the day she was vacating her Christchurch flat Hippolite said she was very surprised to be given her first senior international call up.
“[Head Coach] Guy [Molloy] called me and I thought it was going to be talking about Melbourne or something. It was a very short phone call and he told me I need to prepare to go travelling!
“During the whole selection process I didn’t think anything to be honest. I was just stoked to get the trial at the start of the year.
“It was a big shock to be named in the initial squad of 19 players and I’m still processing the fact that it’s all happening and I have made the final 12.
Hippolite headed to the trial in Auckland back in May with no great expectations.
“I was happy to be there and thought I would go along and learn the systems and learn more about the programme.
“To actually make the initial squad was a real shock. Everything from the trial onwards has been a big bonus – it’s been great.”
It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Hippolite who headed to the States on a basketball scholarship at Hawaii Pacific University in 2018.
That didn’t work out as planned and she returned to Christchurch the following year.
“When I went to college in Hawaii I thought that was it for a while and the Basketball New Zealand programme was off my radar at that stage even though coming through the age groups I really looked up to the older girls who are now regular Tall Ferns.”
On her return she linked up with the Canterbury Wildcats and also commenced her studies at Lincoln University on a basketball scholarship.
However when she failed to get an invitation to the 2020 Tall Ferns Showcase game in August last year, she re-evaluated her goals.
“I thought it would be so cool to be in that alongside all the girls I had played with. For me it was a turning point and I really wanted to get back into the New Zealand programme – it motivated me a lot.
“That was definitely my turning point.
“There were times when I thought it was out of reach but now it’s reality it’s kind of weird.”
The Nelson native played alongside Charlisse Leger-Walker on the New Zealand team that won silver at the 2017 FIBA Oceania Championships in Guam and also with Tessa Boagni at the Wildcats but admits she knows very few of her other new teammates.
“I haven’t even met the majority of the players. I know all about the likes of Penina [Davidson] and Ash [Taia] but haven’t met them face to face so it’s certainly going to be interesting.”
Hippolite is indebted to the network of coaches that have helped her during her basketball journey.
“[Former Tall Black] Ed Book has been a big influence throughout my basketball life, he’s been more than a coach for me and someone I’ve always wanted to make proud of my achievements.
“I’ve been training with Josh Thompson in Christchurch since I was about 17 and he has always thought I could do it, even when I didn’t believe it myself. He’s always given up his time for me and been really pivotal in my progress.
“Then there is Wildcats coach Mel Downer who has brought me to realise I can do something in basketball so I’m really grateful that she came to Christchurch where she has made a huge impact.”
Downer, who is also the Basketball New Zealand National Pathways Manager is not surprised at Hippolite’s elevation to the national team.
“Lauryn has an unparalleled work ethic and drive to get better each and every day. Lauryn is one of the rare athletes that you have to kick out of the gym and force her to have some rest – rest is not a word in Lauryn’s vocabulary!
“It’s so pleasing to see all of Lauryn’s hard work and commitment to her craft be rewarded with the ultimate opportunity to represent her country at the Asia Cup and I have no doubt that this is the start of a long association with the Tall Ferns.”
Mentor Josh Thompson echoes similar sentiment.
“Lauryn is one of the hardest working athletes I’ve trained over the years and I just know she is always willing to put in the work both on and off the court.
“She deserves her chance with the Tall Ferns as she has a great work ethic and is always looking to develop her skills.”
Whilst the route to the Tall Ferns has regularly been via the American collegiate system or the Australian leagues Hippolite has bucked that trend.
“People often wonder how far you can go in New Zealand if you don’t get enough exposure but I don’t think it’s the case anymore
“Going to Australia or playing college basketball in America are obvious pathways but I have been lucky to receive a scholarship from Lincoln University.”
Hippolite is currently studying for a Bachelor of Food Science degree.
“This has allowed me to play basketball semi-professionally, receive a free education and is definitely a path for others to consider.”
Following the Tall Ferns campaign Hippolite will have the added benefit of heading to Australia to link up with the Melbourne Boomers who are also coached by Guy Molloy.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to play in Australia at some stage.
“The biggest thing for me is to be able to train in a professional environment and play against better, more experienced players.
“I don’t think I’m ready yet to be in the league (WNBL), I still think I need some development so this is a perfect opportunity.
“For me the invitation is a no-brainer.”
When naming his initial 19-player squad to prepare for the Asia Cup Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy had this to say about the 21-year old.
“She’s a crafty left-hander with excellent shooting range and I expect she can make her presence felt in coming years for the Ferns.”
Those coming years now include 2021.
Career at a Glance:
2015 – New Zealand U16 team.
2017 – Moved from Waimea College in Nelson to attend Middleton Grange School in Christchurch.
2017 – Played on the New Zealand team that won silver at the FIBA Oceania Championships in Guam averaging 9.6ppg.
2018- Named to Tournament Team at U19 National Championships.
2018-19 Played NCAA Division II basketball at Hawaii Pacific University in 2018-19.
2019 – Named to the All-Star 5 at U23 National Championships
2020 – Leading scorer at the inaugural NBL Schick 3×3 Cup in 2020 playing for Canterbury Wildcats.
2021 – Lincoln University team finished runners-up at the Tertiary 3×3 National Championships
2021 Played two games for the Canterbury Wildcats NBL before Covid shut down the league.
- FIBA Asia Cup website: https://www.fiba.basketball/womensasiacup/2021
- Sky Sport Tall Ferns website: TallFerns.basketball
- Follow the Sky Sport Tall Ferns: @TallFerns
- Follow the FIBA Asia Cup: @fibaasiacupwomen
- Hashtags: #TallFerns #GirlsGotGame #FIBAAsiaCupWomen
- PRELIMINARY STAGE SCHEDULE (NZT):
- Mon 27 Sept, 11pm: NEW ZEALAND v SOUTH KOREA
- Tues 28 Sept, 8pm: NEW ZEALAND v JAPAN
- Wed 29 Sept, 11pm: NEW ZEALAND v INDIA