The Under 23 National Basketball Championship tip off on Wednesday (August 7) in Porirua at Te Rauparaha Arena. Both the Canterbury men and Waikato women are chasing successive titles in 2019, with the latter chasing their fourth straight crown.
Twenty-two teams will convene in the lower North Island for their chance at National glory, with 15 men’s teams vying for the title and seven in the women.
For the women, defending champions Waikato appear to be the team to beat, with Charlisse Leger-Walker back from the Tall Ferns’ campaign at the William Jones Cup.
She will form a fearsome backcourt trio alongside former Tall Ferns Alyssa Hirawani and Krystal Leger-Walker. Krystal was named to the 2019 Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) All-Star 5 and a number of her Waikato Wizards teammates, including Ella Bradley, Kelcy Ballantyne and Koha Lewis add quality to the Waikato squad.
Zoe Richards is also back from Tall Ferns duty and will be a key player for Otago. Like Waikato, Otago will have several WBC players in their lineup with Aleisha Ruske, Nicole Ruske, Olivia O’Neill and Brittany Richards all having been key players for the Gold Rush this year.
2018 runners-up Canterbury will have a ton of experience to call on. Aija Pepe, Lauryn Hippolite, Tessa Morrison and the Wairau sisters Sapphire and Laken make up a potent backcourt. In addition, Tsubasa Nisbett will suit up for the red and blacks again before heading back to college in the States.
Heading to the States shortly are Sharne Pupuke-Robati, Jada Manase and Riana Rangi-Brown, with all three featuring as part of the Auckland Dream.
Tauranga were runners-up in 2017 and will expect to be competitive with Kaitlyn Morrell, Heneaupounamu Nuku, Cairyn-Marie Rogers and Briarley Rogers on their roster.
Simone Cook, Eva Langton and Courtney Keech featured in the Thunder WBC line-up this season and will be back in Taranaki colours in Porirua.
Harbour and Hutt Valley enter as favourites for the men, with both sides boasting a number of players with big-game experience.
Kruz Perrott-Hunt will lead the Northerners alongside NBL representatives Reuben Fitzgerald and Scott Telfer. Former National representative Thabo Manyere has also been listed to feature for Harbour.
Hutt Valley will have former Cigna Wellington Saint Ben Robertson and 2019 Saints squad member Finn McClure at their disposal, along with another former New Zealand representative Sione Helu.
A possible dark horse in the men’s competition is Otago, who will have Southland Sharks players Tom Cowie and Connor Coll running the sets, as well as former National reps Nathan Hanna and Taiaroa Porima Flavell.
The Under 23 Men’s 3×3 National team is also being chosen from the crop of talent on hand this week, with a long list of players set to be selected at the conclusion of the tournament. For more on this team and eligibility click here.
The tournament starts on Wednesday, with games on Friday (August 9) and Saturday (August 10) being live streamed at www.nz.basketball/tv, including all the semi-finals and two grand finals.
- 10:45am 1st Pool C vs W PL QF1 (Mens QF3)
- 12:30pm Waikato vs Taranaki (Womens Pool A)
- 2:15pm Manawatu vs Tauranga (Womens Pool A)
- 4:00pm Winner QF1 vs Winner QF4 (Mens SF1)
- 5:45pm Canterbury vs Waikato (Womens Pool A)
- 7:30pm Winner QF2 vs Winner QF3 (Mens SF2)
- 9am Winner 5-8 SF1 vs Winner 5-8 SF2 (Mens 5th & 6th Playoff)
- 10:45 3rd Pool vs 4th Pool (Womens 3rd and 4th Playoff)
- 12:30pm Loser SF1 v Loser SF2 (Mens 3rd & 4th Playoff)
- 3:00pm 1st Pool v 2nd Pool (Womens Grand Final)
- 4:45pm Winner SF1 vs Winner SF2 (Mens Grand Final)