The 2019 Aon U17 National Championships get underway at Eventfinda Stadium in Auckland tomorrow with 20 Boy’s teams and 18 Girl’s teams vying for the national title.
Wellington, the defending champions, along with Waitaha Canterbury A are most pundits favourites in the Boy’s Tournament.
Tafare Gapare, the 2018 Aon New Zealand U15 FIBA Oceania MVP, returns and will get significant support from Max Abbot and Ben Gold who was also a member of the Aon New Zealand U15 team last year.
Also in Pool A are Central Region top qualifiers Taranaki, Tasman and Auckland B. The fifth team are Northland who will look to Boston Kake and Eli Warmington to head their challenge.
Having acquired Josh Book to add to an already deep squad Waitaha Canterbury A look a dangerous proposition in Pool D. Along with Book the trio of Greg Rodger, Hunter Adam and Tanae Lavery are all in the Aon New Zealand U16 squad.
Waikato point guard Kazlo Evans Jnr, Akiva McBirney-Griffin and Junior De Young will lead the Waikato challenge. Counties Manukau, Southland and the Tony Webster coached Tauranga B make up the five team in Pool D.
In Pool B Auckland, runners-up last year, have arguably the best guard-big combination in Sataan Tawera and Levick Kerr. Neighbours Waitakere West with the likes of Ethan Skelton, Tautoko Wynyard and Dontae Russo-Nance shouldn’t be underestimated. Russo-Nance will bring the experience gained from attending the recent Jr NBA Global Championship Asia Pacific Camp in Jakarta.
Also in Pool B are Waitaha Canterbury B, Porirua and Hawkes Bay – you can bet Randall Bishop and Clifton Bush will have their respective teams well prepared.
If lineage gets you a title then look no further than Harbour with Paora Winitana Jnr, Zach Riley and Jacob Fotu in their line-up. Jacob’s older siblings Ella, Dan and Isaac have all played senior international basketball, Paora Winitana Snr and Brad Riley (Zach’s father) are both former Tall Blacks.
Also in Pool C are Otago, Tauranga, Manawatu and Rotorua. Otago will fancy a top four spot with New Zealand U17 squad member Eric Peita in their line-up. Tauranga will look to Corban Laban-Palmer, Rico Nelson and Braydon Iuli to carry their scoring load.
It is hard to go past perennial powerhouse Waikato in the Girl’s Tournament.
Breeje Schuler and Jayze’lee Waihi have gained valuable experience in the Waikato Wizards WBC team this season and add the talents of Alana Paewai and Reese Anderson and it is easy to see why they will likely start as favourites.
Opposing them in Pool B will be Thames Valley, Hutt Valley and Waitaha Canterbury A.
2018 U15 MVP Jyordanna Davey performed outstandingly at the WBC Finals Tournament last week and she will head the Hutt Valley challenge alongside Tia-Calais Remuera who was also in Auckland last week.
Defending champions Taranaki with Lauren Te Whata a player to keep an eye on head Pool A.
Auckland boast a powerful frontline of Lilly Parke, Sera Taei and Savannah Cook whilst Otago could pose a threat. The coaching duo of Bronwyn Kjestrup and Nat Visger have headed north again after only having a couple of nights in their own beds following their exertions for Otago Gold Rush at the WBC Tournament. Expect Libby Briggs to shine for the Blue and Gold’s. Waitaha Canterbury B round out the four in the pool.
Any team Dillon Boucher coaches can be expected to play up tempo so expect nothing less from North Harbour. Harbour’s Florence Dallow, Simone Barnard and Zaaliyah Kailahi-Fulu were all in the Aon New Zealand U15 team last year.
Also in the 2018 Aon New Zealand U15 team was Hibiscus Coast forward Emma Pugh - Coast joining Counties Manukau, Wellington and Southland to challenge Harbour in a highly competitive Pool C.
It is also tough to pick the top two teams in Pool D where Hawkes Bay, Tauranga, Rotorua, Manawatu and Waitakere West will battle it out.
Manawatu and Rotorua are coached by a couple of wily campaigners in Joe Frost and Darrel Pene. Frost will be able to call on Aon New Zealand U17 squad members Bethany Smith and Janaya Preece.
Likewise Waitakere have a pair from the U17 squad in Odessa Lawson and Riana Matiseni. Tauranga’s Missy Nuku was named to the 2018 U15 FIBA Oceania Tournament Team playing alongside Vitolia Tuilave and shot-blocker Taiana Day also in contention for national honours the team from the ‘Bay’ may well start as favourites in this group.
Hawkes Bay coach Morgan Maskell will be looking to Melika Samia to head his team’s challenge – Samia was named to the Tournament Team last year despite Tauranga finishing 13th.
The first games tip-off at 9.00am on Wednesday July 10.
The last two days will see playoff games livestreamed on www.nz.basketball/tv
and on the @BasketballNZ facebook page.
We would like to acknowledge the continued support of major sponsor Aon. CEO Geoff Blampied says Aon is excited to be involved in the age-group nationals again.
“We are eager to see New Zealand’s up and coming basketball stars in action at the U17 Nationals. Aon is proud to sponsor Basketball New Zealand and it’s always inspiring to see our talented young athletes compete,” he says.