Basketball New Zealand has announced two exciting coaches for the Aon New Zealand Under 17 teams. Extraordinarily, both are based in the United States and assistant coaches with NCAA Division One universities. 

The Women’s U17 National Team Head Coach will be Hernando Planells who is an Associate Head Coach and the Recruiting Coordinator for Duke University Women’s Basketball, in North Carolina.

The Men’s U17 National Team Head Coach will be Aaron Fearne, who is an Assistant Coach at University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

This is the first time two New Zealand age-group Head Coaches have been based overseas. High Performance Director Leonard King says he’s thrilled Basketball New Zealand has managed to make this innovative recruitment work, which will significantly aid in the education of New Zealand’s developing coaches. 

“We are extremely fortunate to attract these high-quality coaches to New Zealand for our junior national team program. Not only will we tap into the knowledge of these well credentialed, well-connected and experienced coaches, but more importantly they will also be fantastic mentors for a group of aspiring coaches who have been eager for more development opportunities. We are going to be strategic in our approach, and target some up-and-coming Kiwi coaches and place them beside Aaron and Hernando. The plan is to have those assistants taking that knowledge into their own head-coach roles down the track. 

“Both Hernando and Aaron will be traveling to New Zealand to participate in our National Selection Camps and to attend some of the age-group national tournaments next year. And of course they will also be available to coach the teams at the respective FIBA events,” says King. 

With the recent improvements to the Basketball New Zealand’s High Performance, which includes three annual age-group national camps and the recent integration of a players’ performance app, Kings says national coaches can be based anywhere in the world and still have the same impact with daily communication, athlete monitoring and team preparation. 

Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy and Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare were on the interview panel, as the Under 17 National team programme is part of the player pathway for Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns. The new coaches will also be leading the U17’s within the wider New Zealand high performance strategy and ‘national style of play’.

King says, as well as becoming Tall Ferns and Tall Blacks, many of the athletes in the U17 teams aspire to attain US college scholarships. King says having Hernando and Aaron aboard is a huge benefit for those aspirants.

“The players will be under the guidance of top US college coaches.  These appointments go a long way to showing how much we value our junior national-teams programme, and the investment we are making in our players and coaches,” says King.


Coach Hernando Planells has been coaching for 20 years and has worked with a number of players who have gone on to play in the WNBA and NBA. WNBA pros include Elizabeth Williams (Atlanta Dream), Lexie Brown (Connecticut Sun), Tricia Liston (Minnesota Lynx), Chelsea Gray (LA Sparks), and Haley Peters (San Antonio Stars). NBA players that Coach Planells has overseen include Avery Bradley (LA Clippers, Tiny Gallon (Milwaukee Bucks), Mario West (Atlanta Hawks) Steph Lasme (Golden State Warriors) and Sherron Collins (Charlotte Bobcats).

Planells says his coaching beliefs and standards have been shaped working under current Duke Women's Basketball Coach Joanne P. McCallie and former NBA Head Coach Don Casey. 

“Yes, for the last six seasons I have worked for an amazing Head Coach in Joanne P. McCallie, and have learned and grown so much. My experiences at Duke, the NBA G-League, and my time coaching overseas will definitely help the team. The experiences I’ve been lucky to have will be helpful in how we prepare, execute and grow as teammates and people.

“I have followed New Zealand basketball for some time now. I attend FIBA events every year and keep track of players all over the world. I’ve always admired how hard the New Zealand teams play, their pride in their country, and how well they worked together as a team.

Coach Planells said that he was particularly attracted to the role because he saw it as an opportunity to work with players who are playing for more than themselves.
“Playing for your country is a huge honour and responsibility, and to be allowed this opportunity for New Zealand basketball is humbling and exciting.”

Originally from Los Angeles California, Coach Planells now lives in Durham, North Carolina. He has two children: Preston who is 18 and will be swimming for the University of Iowa next year, and daughter Gabby who is 15 and plays for Rosary High School in Fullerton, California.  

Interestingly, Coach Planells has also spent time choreographing sports scenes on movie sets including Coach Carter, The Longest Yard, Spider-Man 3, Semi Pro and many others.
When asked what attributes make a great player, Coach Planells said it’s a player who wants to win.

“Players who want to compete against themselves and each other for championships every single day.  They must have an understanding to team, their role and how they can lead effectively.”  

In parting Coach Planells requested the following statement be added:

“I’d like to thank Basketball New Zealand, Leonard King, Coach Guy Molloy and Coach Paul Henare, for giving me this amazing opportunity. And many thanks to Duke and my head coach Joanne P McCallie and staff for supporting me in this exciting venture.”


Coach Aaron Fearne emerged into the New Zealand basketball high performance programme in March of this year, when he was brought into the Tall Blacks camp for the Commonwealth Games.

Before that, Fearne spent seventeen years with the Cairns Taipans in the Australian NBL, nine of those were as Head Coach. During that time he was credited with developing and managing a strategic direction, building a culture of excellence and integrity within the Club. Fearne was the Head Coach for 264 games. He was awarded Australian NBL Coach of the Year in 2014-15. 

Coach Fearne, who is originally from New Plymouth, says he jumped at the opportunity to re-join the New Zealand high performance programme and help Basketball New Zealand grow the game on the international stage.

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity that Basketball New Zealand has given me and I’m really looking forward to the future of basketball in New Zealand.

“I have spoken to Basketball New Zealand about the new style of play. I like the direction that is getting set out, but buy in from everyone will be very important for the long term goal to have success.”

Fearne says this is an exciting time for young Kiwi basketball players as the teams are making their way through the three year international FIBA cycle of Oceania Championships, Asia Championships and World Cups.

“The new FIBA format gives players so much more international competition, which prepares them better if they gain the opportunity to play at a junior World Champs.”

Now based in the US, Coach Fearne says that he’s still learning and looks forward to bringing that knowledge back to young Kiwi players.

“You are always learning the game, so yes I have learnt many new things over here which I will bring into the national team program.”

Fearne lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife Amy, and children Tyler (16) and Jasmine (14) – both play basketball.

For more go to and Basketball New Zealand’s social media channels: @BasketballNZ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.