Family is everything to Kalani Purcell, so there was only ever going to be one answer when the opportunity arose to play with her sisters.
The Waikato native has swapped a Waikato Wizard’s singlet for that of the Auckland Dream, taking to the court alongside siblings Charmian, Natalie and Hailey in the Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC).
The Tall Fern has achieved a lot in her young career but said it’s hard to top being on the same team as her family “for real”.
“Someone always had a basketball bouncing in our house, so we were never short of games at home, but it’s a bit different when you’re playing seriously.
“I was able to play with all of them in 2014 and then with my sister Natalie in the William Jones Cup in 2015, so it’s not exactly new but still very special.”
Another reason why Purcell chose to play in this year’s WBC was to show New Zealand’s next generation of Tall Ferns the opportunities the game offers both nationally and globally.
She herself was the recipient of a two-year scholarship to Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah, where she played on the women’s basketball team and completed a degree in sociology.
“It’s important that we have the WBC because it gives players a way to be recognised without having to head overseas.
“Growing up I didn’t really know about the pathways I had in basketball, besides your rep stuff, and so now I want to show young girls that there is something to strive for.
“I learnt so much in my time at BYU and I want others to get that same experience.”
Basketball New Zealand launched the ‘Girls Got Game’ programme to coincide with the opening round of the WBC, an initiative Purcell is an ambassador for.
The six-week introductory course was designed by women to boost female participation in basketball, with a focus on being active, having fun and participating with friends.
“The Girls Got Game programme gives Kiwi girls a way to break into the game without it all the seriousness of a normal game.
“It also gives me and the other girls Jordan, Penina and Nicole a chance to share our insights and experiences, which could maybe answer some of their questions or help them on their journey.”
Purcell played in last weekend’s WBC tournament held in Christchurch, with her Auckland Dream emerging as the front-runners for Division One.
They had two comfortable wins over defending champions the AM I FIT Otago Goldrush and the Waikato Wizards before recording a hard-fought 70-61 win against the Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats.
Teams will now play on a home and away basis for the next two months, with the Dream’s next contest coming this Friday (May 17) against the Harbour Breeze.
Individual game stats click here.
Watch the following livestream games on www.nz.basketball/tv:
Auckland Dream V Harbour Breeze
Watch the 2019 Women’s Basketball Championship on the livestream though Facebook @BasketballNZ, hashtag #NZWBC.
See the draw, results and teams and more at www.nzwbc.basketball
Want to play basketball? Contact your local association through www.thehuddle.co.nz