Basketball New Zealand appoints General Manager for High Performance

Basketball New Zealand appoints General Manager for High Performance
Basketball New Zealand has announced the appointment of a General Manager for High Performance today, as the sport continues its ascension on the world stage.

Leonard King will take up the role in early December this year, after departing his current role at Basketball Queensland. It’s not the first time King has been with Basketball New Zealand, having worked with the national teams from 2004 to 2007 in a coaching capacity. King says he’s looking forward to moving to Wellington and leading Basketball New Zealand’s HP programme.

“I am extremely excited about working with some of the country’s most talented coaches, players and administrators, and I am looking forward to reconnecting with key stakeholders within the sport while building a High Performance programme that everyone can be proud of.”

The appointment comes at a time when New Zealand is branching out into the FIBA Asia Zone and addressing some ambitious goals to qualify for the FIBA World Cup, starting with the Tall Blacks’ first qualifying game against Korea on 23 November in Wellington. King says, due to this new era of international basketball, New Zealand has been presented with a huge opportunity to grow their national teams. 

“This is a once in a generation opportunity for the sport in New Zealand, a golden opportunity to position itself within the Asian market and grow even stronger ties in the region. This is also a great chance for BBNZ to create a lasting legacy of success as we embark on a focused strategy of improving our brand in a very competitive global sports market.”

It’s that thinking that echoes Basketball New Zealand’s Chief Executive, Iain Potter, who says this appointment was a long time coming. Now that the Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns will be competing on a more expansive world stage, Mr Potter says it’s essential to bring in expertise to lift New Zealand basketball to another level.

“As we step into the FIBA Asia Zone, the challenges have been immense not only on the court, but off the court as well. Previously we have battled on without in-house high-performance expertise, because we simply could not afford to fund it. Now, it’s not an option – we need someone to invest all of their time and expertise into strategically guiding our national high-performance programme. 

“The challenges of this new era of international basketball bring great opportunities. The presence of our teams and brands are continuing to grow, and we know we will be facing regular tests against big nations in Asia with massive audiences and markets – that is a reality now, which we have not had the opportunity of taking advantage of in the past. So we need to make the most of it,” says Mr Potter. 

Mr King’s role will focus on continuing the rise and growth of New Zealand’s pool of basketball talent. His resume is well-fitted to the job, being an experienced practitioner and leaving behind a positive history, most recently with Basketball Queensland.

Previously leading Basketball Queensland’s Game Development department, King was responsible for overseeing the growth and development of players, coaches and officials. He has also worked closely with Basketball Australia, and the Queensland Academy of Sport, where King has been a key driver in the innovation and technology space for coach education, player development, officials and administrators.

King also brings a well-respected background as a High Performance coach, having won Coach of the Year honours twice in Queensland, as well as being appointed as the emerging Boomers’ Assistant Coach in 2016.  

Importantly, King was instrumental in assessing and then transforming Basketball Queensland’s High Performance programmes, which has fostered a significant improvement in Queensland State’s team results, and an increase in the number of Queensland athletes selected to Australian National teams.

New Zealand basketball has grown significantly since 2007, and King says he’s looking forward to returning and building on the great foundation that Basketball New Zealand has presented him.

“Look, what I know about New Zealanders is that they are passionate about sport and those lucky enough to be selected are proud to represent our country. There is an abundance of talented players in New Zealand, and I hope to be able to take what I have learnt working in the High Performance environment over the past 10 years and make a difference in helping BBNZ take the next step on the global stage.”

This is a non-coaching role that is responsible for leading all high performance programmes (both genders, and both 5x5 and 3x3 formats), from the National Talent Programme through all national age-group levels up to Tall Ferns and Tall Blacks. Mr King says he has three main goals to begin with:

1. Improving the alignment of the many competing calendars that athletes are facing, and assisting them to navigate through the performance pathways. 
2. Creating robust High Performance systems and processes that are flexible and adaptable to the rapidly changing environment of international basketball. 
3. Helping to build a culture of contagiously positive people – people who are keen to invest in players from the grassroots right through to elite teams, and inspire athletes to be the best they can be.

Mr King starts with Basketball New Zealand in the second week of December.