Preview: Aon U19 National Basketball Championships set to tip off this Saturday

Following a COVID-19 affected 12-month hiatus, the Aon Under 19 National Basketball Championships will get underway on Saturday 5 June at Eventfinda Stadium on Auckland’s North Shore.

The last two days will feature livestreamed games from the showcourt, including the women’s grand final tipping off at 3pm on Tuesday 8 June, followed by the men’s grand final at 4:45pm.

The last time the championships were held in 2019, North Harbour completed the double by winning both the men’s and women’s titles.


U19 Men

Expect Harbour to be involved again at the pointy end of the tournament, but they will face stern opposition in their quest to repeat the success enjoyed two years ago.

The Harbour Maroon men’s team will be headed by guard Zach Riley, who is a current member of the Auckland Huskies in the Sal’s NBL. He’s not the only NBL rep, in fact a number of Sal’s NBL players will be in attendance.

Fellow Huskies player Jackson Smyth will be suiting up for 2019 runners-up Auckland. Former City of Sails player, Alex McNaught, has moved south to wear Nelson colours. His Giants colleague Jay Marsh will lineup besides him. All three teams are in Pool B alongside Manawatu who will have Manawatu Jets squad member Zavier Pearn to call on.

Canterbury’s depth has them high regard. NZ junior-rep Josh Book, Rams players Zach Hannen, Mason Whittaker, Walter Brown and Aidan Tonge will patrol the paint for Canterbury in a Mainland dominated Pool C, taking on Otago, Southland and Harbour Black.

Southland Sharks squad members Cameron Archer and Ethan Mitchell will be key to Southland’s chances, as will Nuggets players Robbie Coman and Michael Ruske for Otago.

Wellington carry top seeding into Pool D, but will face serious competition from Waikato, Tauranga, and Counties Manukau who will look for scoring punch from Adrian Toia.

Wallington Saints players Kael Robinson and Ezrah Vaigafa are likely to be to the fore for the men from the Capital, while Telen Lepou and Jayden Lenden will continue the rich history their respective families have in the Waikato region.

Look out for the ‘Mac-Attack’ of Jerami Macdonald and Jamie Mcdonnell to lead Tauranga’s challenge.

Waitakere West will have a tried and trusted squad as they take on Northland, Hawkes Bay, and Taranaki in an all North Island Pool A.

Waitakere guards Ethan Skelton and Lucas Payne have already claimed one national championship in 2021, albeit in volleyball. The pair were members of the Rangitoto College team that took out the Secondary Schools National title and the duo will be keen to add basketball nationals to their medal collection.

Northland will feature a number of players from the successful Whangarei Boys High School team of 2019 including Tukaha Cooper, Riley Dyer, Hoani Hetaraka and Eli Warmington.

Taranaki are boosted by the inclusion of the ‘Double-P’ MountainAirs Riley Putt and Thomas Poulgrain. Hawke’s Bay will also have a duo of NBL players with Hawks players Tommy Fergusson and Jacob Murphy leading their challenge for honours.

Men’s Pools:

  • Pool A – Waitakere West, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, Northland
  • Pool B – Harbour Maroon (A), Auckland, Nelson, Manawatu
  • Pool C – Canterbury, Otago, Southland, Harbour Black (B)
  • Pool D – Wellington, Waikato, Counties Manukau, Tauranga


U19 Women

Emme Shearer’s inclusion in their team is a big boost for North Harbour. The 2019 Tournament MVP has just returned from her freshman year at the University of Portland. Also in the Harbour lineup is Jazz Kailahi-Fulu, a member of the 2020 Harbour Breeze Sal’s NBL Championship winning team.

Also returning from an inaugural season of college basketball in the US are the Canterbury pairing of Molly Cockburn and Ashlee Strawbridge.

Canterbury and Harbour are joined by Otago, Rotorua and Wellington in Pool A.

Wellington’s D’stani Foley played in the inaugural NBL’s Schick 3×3 Cup in 2020, while Rotorua have no fewer than five players that featured in the D League Grand Final against Taranaki last December: Kararaina Pene, Dekoda Roberts, Mufaro Mapengo, Carly Ohia and Alyssa Webster.

Annabelle Ring and Dre Whaanga will likely be at the heart of Otago’s bid for championship success.

Waikato will start favourites in Pool B, but expect Taranaki to provide a stiff challenge. Tegan Omelvena-Ngatai, Gemma Walsh and rebounding machine Raquel Sampson were all members of the Taranaki Thunder D League championship winning team in 2021.

2020 U17 MVP Jayzelee Waihi will be a tough cover in the Waikato backcourt as will be her fellow U17 Tournament Team member, Breeje Schuler. Also suiting up for Waikato will be Malika Samia, the youngest attendee at the recent Sky Sport NZ Tall Ferns Selection Camp. Waitakere West, Manawatu and Northland round out the Pool B combatants.

Waitakere West guards and 2020 Harbour Breeze squad members, Leata and Safena Tenana-Williams, will pace Waitakere West. Harata Coleman, recently returned from the States, and Rochelle Fourie will lead the Manawatu challenge.

Northland will head south with the Llewell-Huriwaka sisters Kayla, Jahnae and Tyla heading their challenge.

Women’s Pools:

  • Pool A – Harbour, Canterbury, Wellington, Otago, Rotorua
  • Pool B – Waikato, Taranaki, Waitakere West, Manawatu, Northland

The opening games tip-off at 9am on Saturday 5 June, 81 games will ensue before the men’s and women’s Grand Finals on Tuesday afternoon.


More info: