Author Archives: laceylowdown

Are any Kiwis NCAA Tournament bound in 2020?

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It may be more than a couple of months away yet but who of our fourty-odd Kiwis (21 women and 20 men) playing NCAA Division I hoops are likely to feature in the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Tournament in late March?

Remembering that with the 32 conference winners gaining automatic entry only a further 36 teams (32 women’s teams) gain selection from the remaining 321 Division 1 colleges it’s a results driven business.

Of the Men’s teams only Yanni Wetzell and the San Diego Aztecs would be sure of a nod from the tournament committee if invitations were handed out tomorrow. The Aztecs are ranked anywhere between second and seventh, depending on which poll you look at, on the back of their record equalling 20-0 start to the season – the only unbeaten team in Men’s Division I basketball.

St Mary’s are the next highest ranked team with a Kiwi player on the roster. Dan Fotu has been called upon to play as the starting centre for the Gaels who are currently ranked 41. Quinn Clinton is also at St Mary’s but he is redshirting the 2019/20 season. With Gonzaga favourites in the West Coast Conference St Mary’s will need to string some victories together to climb into contention.

The same can be said for Sam Timmins and the University of Washington from the Pac 12 Conference who sit seven places lower at 48th.

Flynn Cameron and De Paul University are at #52 and the only other player on a Top 100 team is Sam Waardenburg with Miami Hurricanes who sit at 92nd. An indication of how strong the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) is regarded is that Miami sit 14th on the ACC standings with a 2-6 record yet still figure in the top 100 teams nationally.

The best of the rest is Izayah Le’afa and Sacramento State Hornets at #122. They will have to win the Big Sky Conference to feature in March Madness.

In the Women’s rankings top spot sits with Tara Manuumale. The former Junior Tall Fern is a freshman at Arizona who sit 19th on the NCAA Women’s Div I ranking list.

Just outside the Top 50 are University of Colorado with Charlotte Whittaker making quite an impact in her freshman season.

Not far behind at #69 are St Mary’s Gaels who boast a trio of Kiwis – seniors  Shalae Salmon and Khaedin Taito plus freshman Kaylee Smiler.

Tegan Graham and Colgate University (13-5) are going well in the Patriot League and squeeze inside the Top 100 at No 92 with Katelin Noyer and Fresno State Bulldogs at #94.

The best of the rest are the Atlantic 10 Conference pairing of Fordham University (#114) and Virginia Commonwealth (#138). Fordham, the A-10 champions last season, have the Kiwi duo of Kendell Heremaia and Zara Jillings whilst Virginia Commonwealth, the beaten finalists in 2019, are led by leading scorer Akiene-Tera Reed.

Wetzell and San Diego State flying high

Yanni wetzell

Another interesting week of Men’s NCAA Division I basketball has ended with San Diego State at No 2 on the NCAA ranking table. With Yanni Wetzell playing a big part in the Aztecs success it’s not a surprise he heads the Lowdown Player of the Week standings.

The full team is:

Yanni Wetzell, senior at San Diego State University

San Diego (19-0) remain the only unbeaten team in Men’s NCAA Division I basketball after defeating Nevada 68-55. The occasion was a personal triumph for Yanni Wetzell who amassed 17 points (7/13FG, 2/2 3PG) and a career high 16 rebounds plus 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal in a dominating performance.

Angus McWilliam, sophomore at University California Riverside

In a probable first for New Zealand basketball Angus McWilliam and Callum McRae were the two leading scorers for University of California Riverside Highlanders in the 80-68 loss to CSUN on Thursday.

Cantabrian McWilliam led the Highlanders effort with 15 points (5/8FG) closely followed by McRae – the former Palmerston North Boys High centre scoring 14 points (6/11FG). McWilliam also topped the UCR rebounding count with 8 boards.

I will stand corrected but I believe it is the first time a pair of Kiwis have been the top two scorers in a game for an NCAA Division I team.

Callum McRae, sophomore at University California Riverside

McRae followed the above performance with 7 points, 7 rebounds (4 at the offensive end), and 2 assists in a 69-53 loss to UC Irvine.

Sam Waardenburg, junior at Miami University

Despite tying a career best 11  rebounds Miami lost a heartbreaker against #9 Florida State going down 83-79 in overtime. He also added 7 points, an assist, a block and a steal in 41 minutes – commendably he had zero turnovers in that time.

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa, freshman at Sacramento State University

Sacramento State’s 71-62 loss at Northern Colorado marked the first game this season Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa hasn’t scored from the three-point line this season for the Hornets.

The Wellingtonian made a single triple in the next game, a 74-49 loss at Southern Utah. He finished with 5 points, 6 rebounds and a couple of steals.

Bubbling under

Dan Fotu had 5 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists as St Marys Gaels bet Pepperdine 78-69 to climb to 3-2 in West Coast Conference play.

 

A new name makes NCAA Div I Team of the Week

Kaylee Smiler

Former Waikato and Melville High School standout Kaylee Smiler makes the Lowdown Team of the Week for the first time after starring in BYU’s win at St Mary’s. Tegan Graham is unlucky to miss the cut despite scoring a dozen points for Colgate Raiders.

Kaylee Smiler, freshman at Brigham Young University

Kaylee Smiler enjoyed a breakout performance in Brigham Young University’s (BYU) 65-55 win at St Mary’s, California on Sunday (NZT). Smiler produced career-best numbers in points (19), rebounds (6) and steals (2.) In 29 minutes of action Smiler put on something of a shooting clinic making 7 from 9 from the field including an impressive 4 from 4 from beyond the arc.

“Kaylee had a great game for us today, what a way to step up when we needed her to. I’m very happy for her and all her hard work,” said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins about his freshman guard.

Akiene-Tera Reed, junior at Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth won a tight one against Richmond (53-50) with Tera Reed scoring 14 points. That carried Reed past 1,000 career points at VCU in her third year with the Rams. Becoming the 24th player to reach that mark in VCU history it will be interesting to see where she sits on the Rams all-time list when her college career ends next year.

Amiee Book, sophomore at Cal State Fullerton

Fullerton lost back to back games (63-57 in overtime to CSUN and 79-72 at Hawaii) in Big West Conference play. Amiee Book amassed a career best 13 rebounds to accompany 22 points against CSUN, the Waimea product following that with 7 points and 11 rebounds in Hawaii.

Kendell Heremaia, junior at Fordham University

Stats stuffer Kendell Heremaia was busy again as Fordham moved to 3-1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 66-54 win at George Mason. The Fordham co-captain had 8 points, 5 rebounds, a massive 7 assists, 1 block and a steal.

McKenna Dale, junior at Brown University

McKenna Dale grabbed a team high 7 rebounds as well as tallying 12 points and a couple of steals but it wasn’t enough to prevent Brown University going down to Yale 79-72 in Ivy League action. That’s five straight games in double figures for the former Junior Tall Fern.

Bubbling Under

 Tegan Graham scored 12 points including 2 from 3 from behind the arc and also corralled 5 rebounds as Colgate improved to 5-1 in the Patriot League after a 70-61 victory over Boston.

Kayla Manuirirangi scored 10 points as Tulane University defeated Cincinnati 64-59 to remain unbeaten (5-0) in the American Athletic Conference.

Zara Jillings played a nice supportive role in Fordham’s win at George Mason. If Heremaia was the stats stuffer in the game the former Westlake guard was a more gentle stats filler. Jillings ended up with 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and a block in just 13 minutes for the Rams.

Kaylee Smiler Puts a Grin on BYU Coach’s Face

Kaylee Smiler

Former Waikato and Melville High School standout Kaylee Smiler enjoyed a breakout performance in Brigham Young University’s (BYU) 65-55 win at St Mary’s, California on Sunday (NZT).

Smiler produced career-best numbers in points (19), rebounds (6) and steals (2.) In 29 minutes of action Smiler put on something of a shooting clinic making 7 from 9 from the field including an impressive 4 from 4 from beyond the arc.

“Kaylee had a great game for us today, what a way to step up when we needed her to. I’m very happy for her and all her hard work,” said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins about his freshman guard.

Prior to the game Smiler had been given limited opportunities to shine playing a total of 70 minutes in 14 appearances scoring 12 points.

You would imagine more minutes will be offered to Smiler during the remainder of her first season with the Cougars.

Callum McRae and Angus McWilliam create history

Angus McWilliam

In a probable first for New Zealand basketball Angus McWilliam and Callum McRae were the two leading scorers for University of California Riverside Highlanders in the 80-68 loss to CSUN on Friday (NZ Time).

Cantabrian McWilliam led the Highlanders effort with 15 points (5/8FG) closely followed by McRae – the former Palmerston North Boys High centre scoring 14 points (6/11FG). McWilliam also topped the UCR rebounding count with 8 boards.

I will stand corrected but I believe it is the first time a pair of Kiwis have been the top two scorers in a single game for an NCAA Division I team.

McRae had an outstanding freshman season for the Highlanders in 2018-19 leading the team in field goal percentage (55.4%) averaging 7.6 points per game.

He is up to 9.3 points per game this season with his field goal percentage a slightly superior 56.3%. In addition he is averaging 6.3 rebounds per game.

After transferring from Texas Christian University midway through last season McWilliam has made every post a winner with the Highlanders.

He is averaging 7.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game but that doesn’t tell the full story. The power forward was granted his first start against California Lutheran University in early December and responded with 10 points and 9 rebounds in that game. Since then he has started six of the last ten games for Riverside averaging 10.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game during that period.

The ‘Mack-Attack’ pairing look certain to play key roles as Riverside look to build on their 2 wins and 1 loss start to Big West Conference play in the coming weeks.

Callum McRae copy

Canterbury Wildcats showing their claws

Deanna Kuzmanic

A week after announcing that 2019 All-Star Five forward Marita Davydova is returning to the club the Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats have unveiled American-Puerto Rican player Deanna Kuzmanic as their second import signing for the 2020 season.

The Wildcats finished fourth in last season’s Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) but with the revamped league to be known as the Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) the Wildcats are signalling that a spot on the winners podium is a more desired destination  in 2020.

The Wildcats were WBC champions in 2016 and 2017 and with new coach Dene Robinson at the helm the club will be looking for further glory this year.

“We are very happy to have signed Deanna,” said Robinson.

“With the re-signing of Marita Davydova and the experience of our Kiwi players available from 2019 I feel the team will be very competitive in the 2020 Sal’s NBL,” added Robinson.

The 23 year-old Kuzmanic completed an outstanding four year career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 2019.

During her time playing NCAA Division I basketball for the UAB Blazers, Kuzmanic earned Conference USA All-Conference Team honours twice. The four-year starter played 128 career games, the most in school history. Kuzmanic finished her career with 1,536 points, ranking 11th in programme history.

In her senior year with the Blazers she averaged 12.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists shooting the three-ball at 41%. She is also an 80% shooter from the foul line.

The Wildcats have lacked a consistent perimeter scorer for the last couple of years but if Kuzmanic can provide some outside potency to compliment the inside weaponary of Davydova (14 points and a league high 14 rebounds per game in 2019) the Cantabrians will be a force to be reckoned with.

The Wildcats are yet to announce their local players but if the likes of Tessa Morrison, Tessa Boagni, Ajiah Pepe and Helen Matthews return they will be fun to watch.

Coach Robinson will also be hoping 2017 WBC MVP Fran Edmondson, who missed the whole of the 2019 season due to injury, will be restored to full health to further bolster the Wildcats front court artillery.

With her college career behind her Kuzmanic is looking forward to furthering her basketball experience in New Zealand.

“This will be my second professional contract since graduating from UAB. I played in Puerto Rico’s professional league for the Manati Atenienses in August-October 2019. In that league I was fortunate enough to be named Rookie of the Year and our team won the 2019 championship.

Also in 2019 Kuzmanic represented Puerto Rico at both the Pan American Games where they took home a bronze medal and also the FIBA Americup. She is looking forward to more international appearances next month.

“I am honoured to represent Puerto Rico and am very excited to represent them in February at the Olympic Qualifier in France.

“My mom is Puerto Rican although she was born and raised in the United States. However both of her parents, my grandma and grandpa, were born and raised in Puerto Rico and moved to the United States as young adults.”

Kuzmanic will link up with the Wildcats following her international commitments.

“I want to use my platform as a professional player to encourage others and positively impact lives, and I believe that is exactly what this team is all about. I am thrilled to be a Wildcat, and I look forward to competing and working hard on and off the court. I want to play my role to the best of my ability so that I can help put the team in a position to win,” enthused Kuzmanic.

Those words will be music to the ears of Robinson and the Wildcats management.

The 2020 Sal’s NBL season begins in May.

 

Team of the Week headed by Waardenburg and Wetzell

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Yanni Wetzell, senior at San Diego State University

Yanni Wetzell produced a couple of monster performances as San Diego remain unbeaten. He scored 17 points on a perfect 7 from 7 from the field as the Aztecs defeated Wyoming 72-52. He followed that with a career high equaling 20 points (9/12FG) and added 5 rebounds and 4 assists for the No7 ranked Aztecs. That’s the eleventh time this season the former Westlake big man has scored in double figures

Sam Waardenburg, junior at Miami University

Sam Waardenburg, far from fully fit with tendinitis in the knee, was still a force for Miami in their 74-58 road loss at Top 20 ranked Louisville. Waardenburg led the Miami defensive effort with 10 boards, a block and a steal in addition to scoring 5 points. The former Rangitoto College forward repeated the 10 rebound dose against Pittsburgh and the outcome was better as Miami won 66-58. Waardenburg played all 40 minutes and also notched 7 points, 3 assists and a couple of blocks. Miami now 2-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Dan Fotu, sophomore at St Mary’s College, California.

St Mary’s, California bounced back from the loss at Pacific that went to four periods of overtime with an 87-84 win against BYU. Again the tie went to overtime but this time St Mary’s were victorious, Dan Fotu playing a major hand as he accumulated 17 points (7/9FG), 5 rebounds, 2 steals and a block.

Angus McWilliam sophomore at University California Riverside

Cantabrian forward Angus McWilliam, with 11 points (5/5FG), 3 rebounds a block and a steal, helped UC Riverside to a 65-59 victory at UC Davis in there opening Big West Conference fixture. In an unusual coincidence the score was identical (65-59) 48 hours later when Riverside beat Cal State Fullerton – 8 points and 5 rebounds in that one for McWilliam.

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa, senior at Sacramento State University.

A season high 6 assists to compliment 14 points (4/7 3PG), 2 rebounds, 1 block and a steal from Izayah Le’afa helped Sacramento State to a 71-57 win against Weber State. The Hornets are now 3-2 in Big Sky Conference play.

Bubbling Under

Matt Freeman scored 8 points and added 4 rebounds and a couple of assists as UC Santa Barbara opened Big West Conference play with a convincing 63-45 win against Cal Poly. It wasn’t such good news a couple of days later as the Gauchos lost 55-52 on their home patch to Long Beach State – 7 points for Freeman in that one.

Callum McRae had 6 points, 2 rebounds, a block and a steal to compliment Angus McWilliam as UC Riverside defeated Cal State Fullerton 65-59.

It’s nice to see Tobias Cameron back on court for Abilene Christian University. The Kiwi guard produced 5 points, 2 rebounds and an assist in ACU’s 88-84 loss to McNeese.

Still chasing a first Southland Conference win Houston Baptist Universityt lost 102-92 to Lamar with Jackson Stent making 5 points and pulling down 4 rebounds for HBU.

Tsubasa Nisbett deservedly makes Team of the Week

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Tsubasa Nisbett making her mark

The silly season has begun in NCAA Division I basketball. With conference play now in full swing teams are regularly playing two games a week. The Lowdown Team of the Week has a nice geographical spread with three North Islanders and two South Islanders gaining selection. A special mention for Tsubasa Nisbett who has worked her way into the Georgia Southern starting lineup and is making some strong contributions with increased minutes.

Amiee Book, sophomore at Cal State Fullerton University

Cal State Fullerton (10-5) is off to its best start to a season since 1990-91 and one player playing a major role for the Titans is Amiee Book. In the latest win against Long Beach State (69-65) the Nelson native led all scorers with 21 points, including 4 from 6 from deep, and completed an impressive stats line by adding a team high 7 rebounds, 5 assists and a steal.

Akiene-Tera Reed, junior at Virginia Commonwealth University

Also stats stuffing was Akiene-Tera Reed as Virginia Commonwealth made it three from three in Atlantic 10 Conference play with a 65-52 win against St Louis. Reed scored a game high 24 points (10/19FG) secured 7 rebounds as well as grabbing 3 steals and dishing 4 assists. The points haul also took Reed past the 200 points mark for the season at an average of over 14 points per game.

Kendell Heremaia, junior at Fordham University

Despite Fordham University Rams slipping to a 74-62 Atlantic 10 Conference loss at Davidson, Kendell Heremaia was still able to manage 14 points, 11 rebounds and 3 steals. It was the sixth double figure rebounding haul of the season for Heremaia and her fourth double-double of the campaign.

She followed that with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals as Fordham returned to winning ways – presiding over George Washington University 53-47.

Tegan Graham, senior at Colgate University

Former Wellington Girls College guard Tegan Graham had 9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and a block as Colgate University Raiders sunk Navy 80-55. The Raiders, 11-4 overall have made their best start in programme history and have begun Patriot League play in a strong fashion with three wins and a loss.

Tsubasa Nisbett, sophomore at Georgia Southern University

Cantabrian Tsubasa Nisbett is finding her feet at Georgia Southern University. Despite GSU going down 69-62 to Arkansas State the sophomore claimed a career high 11 rebounds – 6 of those at the offensive end. She also added 8 points, a brace of assists and a steal. The Eagles are 2-2 in the Sun Belt Conference.

Bubbling Under

Shout out to Pareunuora Pene who made her first collegiate start as Tennessee Chattanooga opened Southern Conference play with a 59-52 win at Western Carolina. The Rotorua guard contributed 5 points, 3 rebounds and an assist.

BYU won a low scoring encounter against San Diego 52-36 with Shalae Salmon added 6 rebounds and a steal to half a dozen points (3/4FG). BYU now 3-2 in West Coast conference play.

It took overtime but Tulane Green Wave eventually got the job done against Tulsa squeezing home 64-62 in overtime. Playing 34 minutes Kayla Manuirirangi came up with 3 points and 4 assists. The former Junior Tall Fern followed that with 7 points in the tight 59-55 win against Memphis that makes Tulane three from three in American Athletic Conference play.

Michelle Nicholls came up with 6 points, a rebound, an assist and a steal as Purdue Fort Wayne suffered a fourth straight Summit League loss going down 100-69 to South Dakota State.

In other news Charlotte Whittaker is absent from the Colorado Buffaloes at present as she nurses a hip injury.

Kiwi Women playing NCAA Div I – First TOTW for 2020

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The first Lowdown Team of the Week in NCAA Div I women’s basketball for 2020 is again headlined by former Waikato and St Peter’s School standout Kendell Heremaia

Kendell Heremaia, junior at Fordham University

Fordham University Rams got their Atlantic 10 Conference defence off to the best possible start with a 79-53 win against St Bonaventure. Once again Kendell Heremaia filled the stats line with 16 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block – her third double-double of the season.

Akiene-Tera Reed, junior at Virginia Commonwealth University

Also registering  an Atlantic 10 Conference win were Akiene-Tera Reed and Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU gained a 75-54 away win at Rhode Island – Reed coming up with 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

Shalae Salmon, senior at BYU

Shalae Salmon came up with 4 rebounds and 4 blocks to go with a couple of blocks but BYU slipped to a second consecutive West Coast Conference loss going down 57-48 to Portland. The 4 blocks were a career high for the Wellingtonian.

Tegan Graham, senior guard at Colgate University

A week after posting a career high in steals (4) Colgate University guard produced a career-high equaling 7 assists as the Raiders won a high scoring affair against Army 100-93. Graham also scored 9 points and pulled down 4 boards.

Kayla Manuirirangi, senior guard at Tulane University

Taranaki native Kayla Manuirirangi followed up her season best 16 points last week with a team high 14 in the 61-56 win against Wichita State as the Green Wave opened American Athletic Conference play with a win.

Bubbling Under

Tsubasa Nisbett played her part in a little bit of history being made by Georgia Southern in their 83-67 win against Louisiana. Nisbett (7 points and 3 rebounds) scored a late three for  the Eagles – their 14thof the game creating a new record high number of threes for the programme. GSU have opened Sun Belt Conference play with two straight wins.

Colorado University Buffaloes went to Oregon with an 12-0 record but were sent packing by the No 2 ranked Ducks 104-46. Freshman forward Charlotte Whittaker acquitted herself well in front of over 10,000 Ducks fans making 5 points in addition to 4 rebounds, 2 assists and a block.

 

Unfortunately Whittaker was sidelined with injury just three minutes into the Buffaloes next game – a 72-60 loss to #3 Oregon State.

Good start to 2020 for Kiwi men playing Div I hoops – latest TOTW selections

 

Yanni wetzell

Yanni Wetzell makes the Team of the Week as San Diego State climb into the NCAA Div I top ten as the latest rankings are released.

Read on to see who else makes the TOTW.

Yanni Wetzell, senior at San Diego State University

San Diego State jumped to #7 on the NCAA Div I rankings after a pair of wins against Fresno State (61-52) and Utah State (77-68). Yanni Wetzell came up with 5 points, 2 assists and a team high 8 rebounds against Fresno and 10 points and 5 boards against Utah.

San Diego (15-0) have made their best start to the season since 2010-11 when they had a certain Kawhi Leonard leading the Aztecs to the NCAA Tournament.

Angus McWilliam and Callum McRae, sophomores at University California Riverside

The Mack Attack of Angus McWilliam and Callum McRae struck again as UC Riverside comfortably beat San Diego Christian 89-51. McWilliam scored a career high 18 points (8/13FG) in just 19 minutes and also bagged 10 rebounds whilst McRae pitched in with 9 points and 5 rebounds.

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa, senior at Sacramento State University.

Izayah Le’afa moved to seventh-best in Sacramento State programme history for three-points made (146) as SSU beat Idaho State 68-49.. He finished with 7 points, 4 assists and three steals. The Hornets are now 1-2 in Big Sky Conference play.

 Sam Waardenburg, junior at Miami University

Miami were given a punch on the nose by No2 ranked Duke going down 95-62 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. However Waardenburg was complimented by Duke’s legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski who commented, “The guy who is playing really well is Sam Waardenburg. He’s an x-factor.”

The former Rangitoto College star eclipsed 250 rebounds as a Hurricane and tallied his 11thdouble figure points haul after finishing with 11 points and a team high 6 rebounds.

Bubbling Under

In a game that took four periods of overtime to settle St Mary’s Gaels lost 107-99 to Pacific. Dan Fotu scored 8 points but unfortunately fouled out early in the first overtime period.

Matt Freeman scored 8 points and added 5 rebounds and a brace of assists as UC Santa Barbara made it five wins on the bounce with a comfortable 87-66 victory over Westmont.

A third Kiwi with 8 points was Max de Geest who also added 2 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal as Long Beach State beat Cal State Los Angeles 76-60.

Portland are 1-1 in West Coast Conference play after defeating San Francisco 76-65. Former Auckland Grammar guard Taki Fahrensohn had 7 points, 3 assists and a steal for Portland. Fahrensohn will next face Dan Fotu and St Mary’s Gaels.