There are a growing number of the top basketball achievers in our high schools, both male and female, gaining scholarships at American colleges. For the young women players the path has been trodden by many before, for example, thirteen of the sixteen players that represented the Tall Ferns in 2016 graduated from, or are currently in, the American college system.
Many of the current crop of Junior Tall Ferns have an eye on a similar route.
A less common basketball/academic path explored by Kiwi teenagers is the United States High School route.
Leaving the comforts of the family home in early teenage years is not for everyone but Junior Tall Fern Akiene Reed is doing just that.
Following the series against China, and a stand out performance in game two where the languid guard scored a game high twenty points and added 8 rebounds and 4 steals, she spoke about her experiences in America.
Reed will be returning to Life Centre Academy, New Jersey for a third and final year after leaving Westlake Girls High School and the family home on Auckland’s north shore mid way through Year 10.
In the past two seasons Reed has played 93 games for Life Centre, known as the Warriors, and is only 37 points shy of 1,000 points for the team.
The Warriors play in the NISAA (National Independent Schools Athletic Association) League and the 188cm guard averages 16.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in one of the premier high school conferences in the US.
During the season the Warriors have a busy schedule often playing four games a week and it is the volume of games and the intensity of the fixtures that drew Reed to the USA.
“In New Zealand the players definitely have the fundamentals and the skills but the intensity back in the US is a lot higher. There are so many players competing for spots that it is very intense. The attraction is that you get to play a lot and get game time under your belt.
“In our conference we have really good competition, it’s said to be the best in the country, and this means every game is really tough,” said Reed.
The level of competition is beneficial for a player that has ambitions to play college basketball.
“For me it is largely about basketball and getting a Division 1 college scholarship.
I’ve had interest from colleges but I haven’t made a decision yet but I will decide later this year where I will go. A lot of the seniors in my year decided a long time ago, so I’m kind of late” she said.
She also points out that academic achievement is also important.
“Our coach is high on players maintaining their academic standards. We have to sign a contract that covers playing standards, off court behaviour and academic standards. You need to stay off the ‘D’ list otherwise you get stood down from games.”
Reed initially headed to California in Year 9 for schooling but in her words “I hated it. I didn’t like the school or the area and the standard of basketball wasn’t very good.”
Fortunately second time around things have worked out well. “I had a clear mind on what I had to get done, I was prepared and knew what my goals were.”
One of her immediate goals is rejoining the Junior Tall Ferns for the Oceania Championships in December. Amusingly for someone who doesn’t turn 18 until later this month she was surprised how young the team is (nine of the squad are younger than Akiene).
“I haven’t played with many of these girls before – some of the girls are really young but they have great skills.
“I love it being part of the team and I am looking forward to taking on the Australians later in the year,” she added.
For now it’s back to the classroom and practice court in New Jersey and another few months away from friends and family.