Best of the best young talent on show
Four days, 130 games, 37 teams. The best of the South Island’s boys and girls secondary school basketballers will be on display at ILT Stadium Southland from tomorrow (Wednesday) until Saturday at Basketball New Zealand’s AA Zone 4 Secondary Schools tournament.
Teams from all over the South Island have descended on Invercargill for four days of wall-to-wall basketball, each going in search of a top six berth to qualify for Nationals in Palmerston North in October.
Basketball Southland deliver the tournament and General manager Jill Bolger and Development Officer Leyton Haddleton both believe there is nothing quite like a secondary schools tournament.
“We really are going to see the best of the best talent in the South Island in our area this week. You get to watch stars of the future going at it. I’ve seen Reuben Te Rangi and the Webster brothers playing in this tournament and to see where they are now knowing they got their start at this tournament. It’s a fantastic spectacle,” Bolger said.
Haddleton will be keeping a particular eye on some of the younger talent in his role as New Zealand Under-15 coach and enjoys seeing the unknown talent on show.
“You get to see some talent that you don’t see normally, because some of these kids don’t play rep basketball and just play for the school. Those types of players are the glue guys and girls who are so important that we don’t know about them through the rep pathway because they only play for the school,” he said.
Bolger said the atmosphere the schools generate within the venue and within their teams is what makes this tournament a stand-out.
“For some of these kids, this is their last year and for many who don’t go on to nationals this will be their last school basketball experience, so they want to get out there and put on a good show and have fun at the same time.”
“The collegiality is like nothing else. You can’t replicate it with a rep team because these kids have played together for years, they have gone to school together, they’re best mates and practice every day and have been to tournaments, so I love the school tournaments because they are so parochial,” Bolger said.
Southland will be represented by four teams, James Hargest College Boys and Girls, Southland Boys High School and Southland Girls High School. Haddleton said it will be a great experience for all four squads.
“It will be a great opportunity for all of them to play and compete. They are all going to come up against teams that have regular tough competition but if the ball drops their way they have a chance,” he said.
“It’s two games a day, so it’s a grind. To be able to get through to the end of the tournament you have to have luck go your way, you have to be fit and you have to look after your bodies, so it’s quite unusual in that way with multiple games a day,” Haddleton said.
The Girls’ draw sees them go straight into quarterfinals on Thursday after two pool games on Wednesday, so a fast start is vital.
“Most often the most important game of the tournament is the first one, because it really does impact who you play if you qualify for quarters and beyond,” he said.
“The level of coaching talent coming down for the tournament will also be great. Josh Thompson who was an assistant with the Mainland Pouakai women’s team will be here, (Tall Blacks’ legend) Phill Jones is coaching Waimea Boys, Sam Dempster (Nelson Giants) is coaching Nelson Boys and there will be equally good coaching talent in the girls,” Haddleton said.
Bolger said the week was great for ILT Stadium Southland and for the local economy.
“It’s going to be massive for the community when you consider accommodation, food and vans and the like. There will probably be over 500 players and management here for the week along with a heap of parents, so that’s a great boost,” she said.
Southland Basketball also wishes to thank the huge number of local volunteers, referees and score-bench officials who will be generously assisting over the four days to deliver an outstanding tournament.
Games start at 8:00am on Wednesday, 9:00am on Thursday and Friday and 8:00am on Saturday. The Girls Grand Final will be played on Saturday at 3:00pm, followed by the Boys Grand Final at 4:45pm.
For the full draw, click below