Fotu and Karena shine in Spain

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There was a double dose of Spanish delight at the weekend as both Isaac Fotu and Mike Karena landed wins.

Fotu came up with 11 points (3/3FG, 5/8FT) and 6 rebounds as Zaragoza beat fellow strugglers Joventut 71-69 to break a four game losing streak. The win pushed Zaragoza up to 14th on the 17-team Spanish League ladder – a timely win ahead of a bye this coming weekend.

Sammic ISB, the Spanish LEB Silver League leaders jumped back into the winners circle after slipping to a rare loss last week.

Karena led all scorers with 18 points (7/12FG) as Sammic improved to 22-7 with a low scoring 60-45 victory at fifth placed Avila. Sammic will wrap up the regular season title if they beat 10th placed Alcazar on Saturday.

Purcell spreads her wings

 

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Good news that Tall Fern Kalani Purcell has been signed to a training camp contract with WNBA franchise Dallas Wings.

“We look forward to Kalani and Kelsey joining a highly competitive training camp,” Wings President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Bibb stated. “We are excited to open camp on April 23 with a deep and talented roster.”

It is unclear how long the contract is for but it could be anticipated that it is at least until the Wings tip-off their regular season home opener on May 20 against three-time WNBA champions Minnesota Lynx – hopefully longer.

Purcell’s addition takes the Wings current roster, including Australian guard Erin Phillips, to 18 players – this number has to be eventually trimmed to 12.

Purcell, a 6-2 forward, joins the Wings after a stellar career at BYU Provo. In her two seasons with the Cougars she was named to the All-West Coast Conference First Team (2016 & 2017) where she ranked as the top rebounder.

A transfer from Hutchinson Community College, Purcell became BYU’s single-season record holder in total rebounds with 416 boards (12.6 average), and was named 2015-16 WCC Newcomer of the Year. This past season she once again led the Cougars and the conference in rebounds and finished her senior campaign averaging 12.7 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per contest, earning the 2016-17 WCC Women’s Basketball Defensive Player of the Year award.

Good news also for Jillian Harmon in Europe. Her club Le Mura Lucca eased past Venezia in the opening game of the Italian League semi-final series. The teams won one game apiece when they met in the regular season but Lucca drew first blood in the best of three series winning 77-61 on Easter Monday to move within one victory of a return to the grand final.

Harmon led all scorers with 19 points (6/9Fg, 7/9FT) and added 7 rebounds and an assist for good measure.

Mixed fortunes for Rooney and Harmon

Our two Tall Ferns playing in Europe enjoyed mixed fortunes in recent play-off action.

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Erin Rooney photo courtesy of Sandra Kochmanska

Erin Rooney’s club Artego Bydgoszcz was defeated 3-1 in the best of five semi-final series against Wisla Can in the Polish League play-off’s. Artego won the first game 68-65 but were beaten 81-66 in the second encounter, 68-63 in game three and 68-60 in the eliminator.

The Cantabrian guard averaged 18 minutes, 4 points, 3 rebounds and two assists across the four games.

Normally you would expect the season to be over following a play-off defeat but unusually Artego will play a 3rd/4th series against the other semi-final losers CCC Polkowice.

There was no such trouble for Jillian Harmon, the other Tall Fern playing in Europe. Her club Le Mura Lucca easily accounted for Pallacanestro Broni in the best of three Italian League quarter-final series. Lucca won 2-0 on the back of 69-39 and 85-35 score lines more reminiscent of a rep game mismatch than those normally associated with the professional game.

Harmon top scored with 16 points in the second game – Lucca now moving on to face Venezia in the semi-final series. The teams won one game apiece when they met in the regular season.

 

 

Edmondson to remain in Perth

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Not too much to report from Australia as the majority of State Leagues in Australia are taking a break over Easter weekend.

However one piece of good news to emerge last week was that Toni Edmondson has re-signed with Perth Lynx for the 2017-18 WNBL season.

The 29-year old enjoyed an outstanding 2016/17 season, starting all 27 games for the Lynx averaging 8.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per outing.

“I can’t wait for the new season to start,” said Edmondson who is currently playing the WNBL off-season for Perry Lakes Hawks in the Western Australian State League.

“I’ve been here for five years now so WA definitely feels like home,” added Edmondson who has played 211 games in her nine seasons in the League.

The Cantabrian debuted in the WNBL back in 2007 when she suited for her hometown team Christchurch Sirens in its only season in the competition. From there she linked with Dandenong Rangers, Bendigo Spirit and Adelaide Lightning before settling in Perth.

A key member of the Tall Ferns, Edmondson looks set to continue her international career when the New Zealand team travels to India to contest the FIBA Asia Cup for the first time. The tournament will begin late July in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru (formerly known as Bangalore).

Henare hunting for new Tall Blacks talent

 

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Basketball New Zealand is embarking on an exciting new era as the game embraces a move into Asia, with the Oceania region now part of a pathway to FIBA events via the Asian region.

Effective from 2017, all New Zealand teams will now be pitched into battle with the best in Asia as they strive to qualify for the likes of a FIBA World Cup or Olympic Games.
While that move brings many financial challenges for a sport, the national body and indeed the teams themselves are embracing the opportunity and in typical fashion, rolling up their sleeves at the thought of the challenges ahead.

Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare loves the new challenge facing him and his team, which will include a first participation at the Asian Cup (Beirut in August) and then the new system of FIBA World Cup Qualifying Windows, with the team being brought together on four separate occasions each calendar year, five next year when you include the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

“Things that are quite exciting about the change include the chance to play guaranteed games at home throughout the year. We will play more internationals and gain that exposure through Asia. We will also get the opportunity to expand our overall Tall Blacks group because at different stages throughout the year we are going to call upon players who might not have played for us before. We will have players unavailable at different times, meaning we will go deeper into our playing group for some windows.”

Henare enjoyed a decorated career as a player and now as a coach, and knows what it means to play at home in the black singlet.

“It is such a rare thing to play for your country and pull the black jersey on in front of family at such close proximity, that is special. Look at someone like Mika Vukona who has probably played over 200 games for his country, but very few of them would have been at home, with his family having the chance to watch him play. This new system creates those opportunities and makes a playing career that much more special. And with those games being World Cup qualifiers, it makes them all the more significant.”

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Mika Vukona

Henare is also in no doubt that the exposure of the famous black uniform and Tall Blacks culture at home will have benefits for the wider game.

“The Breakers have had an impact through sheer exposure and popularity, through having Kiwis playing in front of Kiwis on a regular basis they have been able to grow the game. To be able to do that with the national team is only going to help that growth, hopefully the spinoff is having more and more kids wanting to wear the black singlet and be a part of that. In that way, the increased exposure has to be good for our game.”

Henare is quick however to dismiss any thoughts that this will be an ‘easier’ pathway through to FIBA World Cup and Olympic Games tournaments. In fact the new Asia Zone means the Tall Blacks must be within the top seven teams in Asia to qualify for the FIBA World Cup. Before the change, the team needed to be in the top two within Oceania to qualify.

For the Olympics, New Zealand has been required to beat Australia. Now, under the new system, the best performing Oceania-team in the World Cup will directly qualify for the Olympics.
“Playing against Australia was a big challenge and a mountain to climb but by no means is this any less significant of a challenge, largely because of a different set of circumstances that we will face throughout that period.”

There are clear implications on player depth with the new Asian based system, with the Tall Blacks due to play in multiple FIBA qualifying windows throughout the year, meaning greater depth in the player pool will be required.
That places even greater importance on the NZ Select programme, following on from the successful tour to China in 2016, Henare will lead what is essentially a development team back to China and Taiwan in mid-June this year.Many players will be chosen from the NZ NBL, with Henare stressing more than ever before, the importance of that competition.

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BJ Anthony captained NZ Select in 2016

“The NBL is important for those players if they want to be part of the Tall Blacks programme, the NBL is in effect their place to trial and show their best form, even then we have to make selections based on what is best for the Tall Blacks programme in both the short and long term future, but the NBL is a significant part of the selection process.

“The effects of the Select Tours may take a while to come through, the purpose of that programme is to build a base so once the new Asian qualifying format kicks in, we have a wider group of players who have experience in our culture and on the international stage, it won’t be until then that we see the benefits.”
With that in mind, Henare is engaging on a busy NBL tour attending games and talking with teams.

“I have a schedule to get to as many games as I can. The introduction of live streaming and Maori TV coverage is fantastic, but it is important for me to get out and meet with coaches and watch players first hand to get a better feel for how they are going, and let them know I am watching closely.”

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Could Alonzo Burton be on Henare’s radar?

 

 

Auckland Premier Qualifiers Found

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The cloudy waters of the 2017 Auckland Secondary Schools Premier Qualifying Tournament have now cleared.

After three days of competition the twenty nine would be qualifiers (20 boys teams, 9 girls teams) have been whittled down to the successful four.

Massey High and Carmel College will contest the Girls Prem Grade this season with Macleans College and St Kentigern College earning the right to play in the Boys Prem Grade.

Macleans and St Kent’s progressed in exciting but contrasting encounters.

Macleans led at the end of each quarter against Massey High. 25-20 at quarter time, 55-31 at the half and 72-62 at three-quarter time.

Macleans with Blake van Uden, Alex Arthur and Andrew Fei in good form appeared to have gained a stranglehold on the game in the middle stages of the fourth stretching out to 90-74 but then things became interesting.

A three point play by Elijah Williams gave Massey hope and Marvis Pavli optimism as the lead was reduced to single figures.

A Williams triple made it even closer, 93-86, with 60 seconds to play. Inconsistent free throw shooting from Macleans afforded the opposition more opportunities and Jordan Papa-Mita obliged with 8 straight points as Massey closed to 97-96 with 20 seconds to play.

A cool head was needed in the Macleans camp and they found one in Fei who made three straight freebies to close out a 100-96 victory for the Adrian Boyd coached team.

In contrast the other final eliminator was a tight affair throughout. Avondale College had the better of the early exchanges leading 19-15 at quarter time.

St Kent’s rebounding machine Matt Shorter and Avondale guard David Gatoloai kept the score moving for their respective teams but it was the Eastern suburbs team that had better of the second to edge ahead 33-35 at the break.

It was still tight at three-quarter time St Kent’s ahead 50-49 and 59-57 with less than 6 minutes to play.

St Kent’s guard Tom Chester landed a neat floater but Amand Donaldson tied proceedings at 61 apiece inside the last 90 seconds.

Zach Chan knocked down a sideline three for St Kent’s only for Kennedy Nicolaison to respond in kind on the next possession, 66-66 with 30 seconds to play.

Kyle Robb made a free throw as St Kent’s edged ahead 67-66 with 18 seconds on the clock.

Man of the match Shorter secured a crucial defensive rebound, as Avondale failed to score on the next possession, then secured Prem status for the Aaron Young coached St Kent’s by calmly knocking down a pair of free throws. St Kentigern home but only just 69-66.

Results from the Round of Eight

Massey 92 Western Springs 84

Manurewa 81 Avondale 84

St Kentigern 67 v St Peter’s 58

Macleans 94 v Pakuranga 81

The Senior A competition will be made up of all of the above bar St Kent’s and Macleans.

The two additional qualifiers are Liston College and Northcote College who came through a four team round robin series at the expense of Takapuna GS and Birkenhead College. Birkenhead were edged out on points differential after they, Liston and Northcote each finished with a 2-1 record

In the Girl’s competition Massey High proved too strong, as they had throughout pool play, disposing of Birkenhead College 88-42.

Massey dominated the opening quarter 25-9 and with the lead 47-15 at half-time the retention of Premier Grade status was almost assured. Shauna Povey (20pts), Ramona Fuaivaa (13pts) and Alyesha Shuster (13pts) led the scoring but it was an all-round team performance that produced the win.

New Zealand Under 16 forward Rashaan Smith led the Birkenhead effort with 19 points.

In the other qualifier Carmel College proved too strong for St Kentigern winning 68-58 on the back of 38 points from guard Tayla Dalton.

St Kent’s made a strong start leading 20-13 at the quarter break, Summer-Jean Motufoua quickly into double figures. Fortunes were reversed in the second period as Catie Levell and Emily Bloomfield helped Carmel to a 34-30 half-time advantage.

Kristin Hansen scored 8 third quarter points for St Kent’s but Carmel still held a 50-46 lead with a quarter to play.

The St Kent’s scoring dried up in the front half of the final stanza and Carmen capitalized as Dalton and Bloomfield stretched the advantage to double figures creating a buffer St Kent’s were unable to breach. Carmel into Prem Grade with a fine 68-58 win.

Isaac Letoa heading to prestigious Ivy League college

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Isaac Letoa was a key player for the Junior Tall Blacks back in December when New Zealand defeated Australia in the FIBA Under 18 Oceania Championships in Fiji.Later this year he will combine his basketball and educational talents when he takes up a full academic scholarship at Ivy League school Dartmouth College.

When there he will become a key member of Dartmouth College Big Green’s having committed to the basketball programme for the next four years.

“We are thrilled to have Isaac become a member of our programme and Dartmouth family,” said Dartmouth Men’s Basketball Head Coach David McLaughlin.

“He embodies so much of what we look for when evaluating: A love for the game, a winning and competitive approach every time he is on the court, high basketball acumen, and a work ethic where he truly wants to get better each day. Isaac is a young man of very high character who we feel will have an immediate impact on our team and within the Dartmouth community.”

Letoa moved to Auckland from Wellington in 2013 and has been a member of the Westlake Boys High School team for the past 3 years, captaining the team in 2016.

He joins a long list of outstanding Westlake players that have taken up scholarships at NCAA Division 1 colleges including Kirk Penney (Wisconsin), Rob Loe (St Louis), and Tai Webster (Nebraska).

He has also been a member of the Breakers Academy for the same length of time.

SKYCITY Breakers assistant coach and head coach of the Academy Mike Fitchett is in no doubt what qualities Letoa has that set him apart from most young players in New Zealand.

“Isaac has great defensive ability, plays with intensity and has a terrific work ethic,” says Fitchett.

“He has the capacity to stay in front of quick ball handlers and demonstrates great commitment on defence which you don’t see from a lot of young players. He also has the ability to penetrate at the offensive end and his perimeter shooting is improving,” added the Breakers assistant coach.

Before heading to Dartmouth to study engineering Letoa has the small matter of the FIBA Under 19 World Championships to prepare for. The JTF’s point guard has linked up with the Wellington Saints for the current NBL season to improve his game ahead of college and the championships that will be played in Cairo in the first week of July.

“Right at the moment I want to acknowledge Kevin Braswell who is really pushing me at Saints training and helping me to prepare for the World Champs and college ball,” said Letoa.

There are many other people the 18 year old credits with his sporting and academic achievements.

“Shawn Beck who took the time to organise the initial contact with colleges and endorse me as a person and Wellington College and Westlake Boys High School for preparing me academically, supporting my basketball and encouraging me to take leadership opportunities. Also the Westlake Old Boys Association, ‘The Westlakers’ for their support and encouragement.

”Judd Flavell and Mike Fitchett in their roles as Breakers Academy coaches for shaping me as a player, encouraging me as person and putting me forward for consideration for overseas opportunities like Nike NBA and Adidas Nations camps.

“Harbour Basketball CEO John Hunt for the great Rep programme he runs on the Shore and Basketball New Zealand for providing opportunities to compete at a high level from Korus, to NZ age groups, 3×3 and now the JTBs.

Last but not least Letoa pays a special tribute to his family.

Without question my family deserves full acknowledgment. My father (Fata) has been closely involved having been a coach and a mentor throughout the majority of my life. Jordan, my older brother, has had a similar role in my life. Getting beaten in nearly everything we competed in, you learn to hate losing! My Mother (Paula) has very much had a behind the scenes impact that she doesn’t really get credit for; she has worked extremely hard to support my goals whether they’re basketball-related or not.

“All my extended family and many friends who have contributed so much to fundraisers and in many other ways over the years. I wouldn’t have got this far if it weren’t for them helping me get overseas to be seen,” said a grateful Letoa.

As you can imagine the family are extremely proud of Isaac.

“Paula, Jordan and I are incredibly proud of this opportunity as we have seen first-hand the consistency of dedication and effort that has led to it. Isaac and others like him play sport for school, region, country and sometimes club resulting in many trainings per week and still muster the energy consistently to keep up with, and at times excel, in schoolwork,” said Fata.

“But as he’ll be the first to say, none of it would be possible without the huge support of our extended families, the Breakers, the fantastic teachers and staff at Westlake Boys, and the many friends and supporters who have dipped into their pockets for countless fundraisers to get him overseas over the years. It has definitely been a big team effort and we’re hugely grateful.

“We want to acknowledge his brother Jordan especially, who has played a huge role in the family over what has been a tough year. Both our sons are made of tough stuff and shine in their own ways and once again, we just couldn’t be prouder of them.”

All in basketball will wish Isaac Letoa well as he prepares for the exciting journey ahead at Dartmouth College.

Mixed bag for the Tall Ferns at the weekend

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Former North Harbour star Lisa Wallbutton

Our Tall Ferns in Australia came out on the right side of the ledger at the weekend but only just – wins for Edmondson, Wallbutton and Stockill but losses for Hunter and Bygate.

It was a more than useful 13 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists from Toni Edmondson that helped Perry Lakes Hawks win an exciting encounter against Willetton Tigers 81-79 in the State League over in Western Australia. The Hawks, with four straight wins, are top of the table.

Also in the State League Perth Redbacks beat East Perth Eagles 72-56. Lisa Wallbutton contributed 4 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks as the Redbacks won for the second straight week.

Sunbury Jets are now five from five in the Big V League after beating Waverley Falcons 80-66 on Sunday. Josie Stockill made 10 points and added 4 rebounds and a steal in this latest Jets victory.

Sandringham Sabres had a disastrous weekend in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL). Jess Bygate put in a couple of good shifts but the Sabres were cut to bits on Friday by Bendigo Braves (85-56) and again on Saturday by Dandenong Rangers (83-39).

The former Nelson power forward contributed 11 points, 5 rebounds, a steal and a block against Bendigo and backed that up with 10 points and 4 rebounds 24 hours later.

Jordan Hunter scored 4 points in her second game for Sturt Sabres in the South Australian Premier League as Sturt fell 75-69 at Forestville Eagles.

Premier Grade play-off teams found

The murky waters of the 2017 Auckland Secondary Schools Premier Qualifying Tournament have started to clear.

After two days of pool play the Boy’s competition has been reduced to eight potential qualifiers – the two top teams from each pool of five. The Girl’s competition has been whittled down to four.

All 12 teams will battle it out for the two available Premier spots in each competition on Tuesday at North Shore Events Centre.

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In Pool C of the Boys Tournament Macleans College made an 8-0 start in the top two encounter with St Peter’s College on Sunday morning.

Macleans guard Blake Van Uden helped himself to easy transition points as his team opened a 21-15 first quarter lead.

The pressure defence exerted by Macleans continued to pay dividends in the early stages of the second – St Peter’s coach Leyton Haddleton needing a timeout with his team trailing 40-24.

Forward Whititera Parata helped lead a St Peter’s resurgence but it was still 50-39 to Macleans at half-time.

Opposing centres Harrison Roper and Finlay Morris had a fine battle vacuuming up countless rebounds for their respective teams and exhibiting nice touch close to the rim.

St Peter’s trimmed the lead to single figures in the third period but workhorse forward Alex Arthur, Andrew Fei and Van Uden made crucial plays to keep Macleans in the ascendancy at three-quarter time 74-68.

A ding dong battle ensued in the fourth, Christian Fromont cutting Mac’s lead to three, 83-80, with four minutes to play. Another Macleans surge – Fei and Arthur baskets – increased the Macleans advantage to eight.

Again Morris trimmed the lead to six but Van Uden capped a fine performance, he led all scorers with 32 points, with a breakaway dunk as the Adrian Boyd coached Macleans prevailed 95-84.

Two teams worthy of Premier status will be in the mix when skirmishes resume on Tuesday.

Leading Scorers;

Macleans – Van Uden 32, Fei 16, Arthur 16

St Peter’s – Fromont 23, Morris 16, Boersen 10

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Match of the day in Pool D promised to be the Western Springs College and Manurewa High encounter as both teams were unbeaten. However Manurewa made no race of it leading 47-33 at half-time and eventually winning 79-51.

Dominic Wallace and Pafe Momoisea, with 30 points apiece, dominated the scoring for Manurewa while Izaiah Radonovich fought something of a lone hand for Western Springs with 23 points – his effort included five three’s. Both teams progress to the quarter-finals

In Pool D St Kentigern College emerged unscathed with a 4-0 record. They won the critical games against Liston College 80-76 and Pakuranga College (93-88). Pakuranga beat Liston 88-68 to clinch the second spot in the pool.

Kings College caused an upset early on day two with a 74-64 victory against Massey High in Pool A, the tightest pool of the four. Unfortunately for Kings losses to Avondale College and more importantly Takapuna Grammar (52-45) on day one deprived them of a play-off spot. Those were secured by Massey and Avondale College with Takapuna taking third place.

Boys Pool A Massey HS (3-1), Avondale College (3-1), Takapuna GS (2-2), Kings College (2-2) Onehunga HS (0-4)

Boys Pool B St Kentigern College (4-0), Pakuranga College (3-1), Liston College (2-2), Mt Roskill GS (1-3), Waitakere College (0-4)

Boys Pool C Macleans College (4-0), St Peter’s College (3-1), Birkenhead College (2-2), Sacred Heart College (1-3), Selwyn College (0-4)

Boys Pool Manurewa HS (4-0), Western Springs College (3-1), Northcote College (2-2), Dilworth School (1-3), De La Salle College (0-4)

Quarter-finals draw; 

Massey v Western Springs

Manurewa v Avondale

St Kentigern v St Peter’s

Macleans v Pakuranga College

The six teams failing to make Prems from the above eight will contest the newly formed Senior A League beginning next term. They will be joined by two from Liston, Birkenhead, Takapuna and Northcote. All four teams play a round robin series to determine which two school’s it will be. The first round was played on Sunday evening with Liston beating Northcote 94-82 and Birkenhead edging Takapuna 70-60. The remaining rounds will be played on Tuesday.

In the Girl’s competition just four teams, the top two in each pool, will make their way to the NSEC on Tuesday.

The draw pitches Massey High against Birkenhead College and St Kentigern College versus Carmel College. The pairings give Massey and St Kent’s, both unbeaten in Pool play, the opportunity to preserve their Premier status – they were the bottom two finishers in the eight team comp in 2016.

Massey was mighty impressive in Pool A winning their four games by an average margin of 55 points.

Girls Pool A Massey HS (4-0), Carmel College (3-1), St Mary’s (2-2), Epsom Girls (1-3), Pakuranga College (0-4)

Girls Pool St Kentigern College (3-0), Birkenhead College (2-1), Mt Roskill GS (1-2), Diocesan School (0-3)

Fierce competition looming for Auckland Sec Schools Prem Grade spots

Next Tuesday we will know the makeup of the 2017 Auckland Secondary Schools Premier competition.

Auckland College Sport and the decision makers in Auckland secondary schools basketball are to be applauded for their initiative to introduce both a Boy’s and Girl’s Premier Grade reserve competition for 2017.

The new grade has created plenty of interest and intrigue in the Premier Qualifying Tournament being played this coming Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday

Ten schools have entered the Girls Qualifying Tournament meaning that the top two qualifiers will gain automatic entry into the Premier Grade with the remaining eight teams making up the Reserve Grade that will be known officially as the Auckland Senior A competition.

With twenty schools entered in the Boy’s Qualifying Tournament competition for the two places in the Premier Grade and eight spots in Senior A will be fierce.

It is hard to pick favourites in either tournament but I like the chances of Massey High School retaining their place in the Girls Premier competition. With much the same team as last season, but all a year wiser, the likes of Shauna Povey, Terina Aratangi and Laticia Jost should perform well.

Also in Pool A look out for St Mary’s College Ponsonby with sisters Zaaliyah and Jazz Kailahi-Fulu making a handy front court pairing. St Kent’s with home court advantage should feature strongly in Pool B.

Girls Pool A

Massey HS, Epsom Girls, St Mary’s, Carmel College, Pakuranga College

Girls Pool B

St Kentigern College, Birkenhead College, Onehunga HS, Mt Roskill GS, Diocesan School.

Picking a winner in the Boy’s Tournament is something of a lottery.

St Peter’s College, St Kentigern College and Mcleans College all performed well at the recent Rangitoto Invitational Tournament.

St Peter’s will look towards Gerard Boersen and Toffer Espinosa to provide scoring punch whilst St Kent’s will be hoping Max Shorter and Kyle Robb can lead a return to top flight basketball for the East Auckland college.

St Peter’s coach Leyton Haddleton likes the look of both Massey High and Macleans College and also thinks Onehunga High, one of the bottom two finishers in 2016 will be going all out to preserve their Premier status.

Liston College has been building nicely via a strong junior programme in the last couple of years and Avondale College, with Doe Williams back at the helm, can’t be discounted.

However, with twenty teams competing, a dark horse or two will inevitably emerge.

Boys Pool A

Onehunga HS, Massey HS, Takapuna GS, Avondale College, Kings College

Boys Pool B

Liston College, St Kentigern College, Mt Roskill GS, Pakuranga College, Waitakere College

Boys Pool C

St Peter’s College, Selwyn College, Macleans College, Birkenhead College, Sacred Heart College

Boys Pool D

Manurewa HS, Northcote College, Western Springs College, Dilworth School, De La Salle College

All round robin games will be played on Saturday and Sunday with the critical play-off games set down for North Shore Events Centre on Tuesday.