The Aon Under 19 National Basketball Championships will tip off this Saturday at the North Shore Events Centre. Running from 2 to 5 June, a number of top junior players and teams will battle for the 2018 titles which will make for an exciting, livestreamed event.
The Waitaha Canterbury Red men’s team will be a threat, having taken home the silverware in 2017 when they staged a stunning fourth-quarter comeback to defeat Auckland. They’re also on a high after winning the North Harbour Easter Slam title to their trophy cabinet this year.
Auckland are probably still smarting from giving up a 17 points advantage at three-quarter time in last year’s final and will be eager to avenge that loss this time around.
They return a number of that 2017 team including Thomas Whyte, Anzac Rissetto, Ryan Laumatia and Marvin Williams-Dunn. Former Waikato guard Kainoa Lepou is a handy addition to their squad.
Auckland will start favourites in Pool D but will be pushed all the way by local rivals Waitakere West, a team that boasts the scoring talents of Jaga Mete, Armand Donaldson and Chayse Pinono.
Perhaps the toughest line up will be the Canterbury Red and Blacks, with New Zealand Under 17 rep Tom Higgins linking up with Max de Geest and Max Darling, who is performing well for the Canterbury Rams in the Sal’s NZ NBL.
Waikato Country’s coach, Jeff Green, will be likely strategizing with a second place finish in Pool A, behind Canterbury. The backcourt of Ethan Drongool and Tane Hutchison, along with forward Wiremu Jones, will need to play major roles if that outcome is to be attained.
Jayden Taufale, Israel Price-Vaaitoa and Jayden Puroku will be calling the shots for Hutt/Porirua alongside Samoan representative Nathaniel Luapo.
Tyler Marsh, who played for the Nelson Giants as a 14 year-old back in 2015, will be looking to help place Tasman in play-off contention.
Pool B looks intriguing with Harbour A, Wellington, Tauranga and Taranaki scrapping for the top two spots.
Harbour are boosted by the arrival of Tom Cowie from Southland. He and Kruz Perrott-Hunt will form a forceful back court.
Haven Dixon, bound for Argentina with the New Zealand Under 17 World Cup squad, suits up for Wellington. Klein Salmon and Jaylin To’o are also important cogs for the men from the Capital.
Morgan Trott and Oscar Robertson will be key players for Taranaki, while Tauranga will be leaning heavily on Jeremy McIntosh, Josiah Albert and Jacob Forward.
Manawatu could be the team to beat in Pool C with the likes of Cooper Boyce-Towler, Oscar Oswald and Tama Faamausili backing up from their third place finish in 2017. They have additional firepower in the shape of Jake McKinlay, also a member of the NZ U17 World Cup team.
Expect Waikato’s Coach Steve Agnew to be well organized. With Maxim Stephens, point guard Cullen Masters and forward Corban Mason in his team’s ranks, Waikato will be strong contenders for a quarter-final berth.
Otago will look to the experience of Nathan Hanna and New Zealand Under 18 representative Tai Porima-Flavell. Ben Reeves is an up and coming guard who will provide the men from the south with additional scoring punch.
The top two teams in each pool will progress to the quarter-finals.
U19 Men’s Pools:
Pool A – Waitaha Canterbury Red, Tasman, Waikato Country, Hutt/Porirua
Pool B – Harbour A, Wellington, Taranaki, Tauranga
Pool C – Manawatu, Waikato, Otago, Northern 5
Pool D – Auckland, Waitakere West, Waitaha Canterbury Black, Harbour B
Aon Under 19 Women’s Basketball Nationals
The 2017 Women’s Final was a cliffhanger with Waikato beating Canterbury by a single point (65-64) and it will be a surprise if these two teams don’t feature strongly again this year.
Tall Fern Charlisse Leger-Walker, along with Ella Bradley and Koha Lewis, has been in fine form for the high flying Waikato Wizards in this season’s Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC). They’re expected to carry that form into their Pool A games.
Taranaki and Auckland Counties Manukau also boast players that have been making waves in the WBC.
The duo of Isabelle Cook and Simone Cook have been performing well for Taranaki Thunder for a couple of years now and their performances will be key for last year’s fourth place finisher.
Sharne Pupuke-Robati played an important part in Auckland Dream’s WBC overtime win at the weekend against Canterbury Wildcats. Joining her in the ACM lineup will be Rionne Papa, Jada Manase and point guard Summer-Jean Motufua.
Wellington will be led by Grace Hunter and Leah Mafua and will be coached by former Tall Fern Tania Tupu.
Waitaha Canterbury Red return seven players that experienced the disappointment of that loss to Waikato last year. With NZ age-group internationals Aimee Book, Charlotte Whittaker, Lauryn Hippolite and Tsubasa Nisbett in their midst they will be favourites to top Pool B.
Waitakere West took third place last year and with the likes of Riana Rangi-Brown, Mele Latu and Elianna Tuaiti in their squad another top four finish will be a strong possibility.
Harbour A will expect to perform well with Keeley Tini, Jordyn Maddix, Tayla Dalton and Tessa Talo-Tomokino having all played New Zealand representative basketball last year. The quartet has also featured in the Harbour Breeze team this season.
Briarley Rogers, Kaitlyn Morrell and Moneesha Barrett have WBC experience under their belts and will be central to Tauranga’s success.
Limited preparation may be the biggest hurdle that Southern Zone face. With New Zealand Under 18 representative Olivia O'Neill in their squad alongside Olivia McManaway, originally from Tauranga, and Alexandria Bennett from Gore the team have a good blend of youth and experience.
The top two teams in each pool will gain direct entry into the semi-finals on day three.
Aon U19s Women’s Pools:
Pool A – Waikato, Taranaki, Wellington, Auckland Counties Manukau, Gisborne, Waitaha Canterbury Black
Pool B – Waitaha Canterbury Red, Waitakere West, Tauranga, Harbour A, Southern Zone, Harbour B
Ten games will be livestreamed on the last two days of the event, including all Semi Finals and the Grand Finals, 4 and 5 June on www.NZ.baskeball/TV and @BasketballNZ Facebook
4 June Livestream:
10:45am, Men’s 5th and 8th
12:30pm, Men’s Semi-Final 1
2:15pm, Men’s Semi Final 2
4pm, Women’s Semi Final 2
5:45pm, Women’s Semi-Final 1
5 June Livestream:
9am – Men’s 5th and 6th Playoff
10:45am – Women’s 3rd and 4th Playoff
12:30pm – Men’s 3rd and 4th Playoff
3pm – Women’s Grand Final
4:45pm – Men’s Grand Final
Draws, Programme, Rosters can be found here:
For more information go to www.NZ.basketball
and the @BasketballNZ social media channels: Facebook