Category Archives: College Hoops

Brayden Inger the latest Kiwi to commit to an American Div 1 University

Brayden 1.JPG

I had the pleasure of chatting with Brayden Inger the latest New Zealand player to secure a scholarship in the States.

Brayden becomes the latest in a line of Rangitoto alumni that have headed to Division 1 schools.

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The Fotu’s have something special going on


At some stage in mid 2018 Daniel Fotu will head to San Francisco to link up with the players and coaching staff at St Mary’s College.

The St Mary’s play in the NCAA Division 1 West Coast Conference and the Rangitoto College senior this week signed a letter of intent to suit up for the Randy Bennett coached Gaels for the 2018-19 season and beyond.

There is nothing new of course about Kiwi’s heading to college in the States, after all over thirty young New Zealand players are at Division 1 universities heading into the new season that begins at the end of October.

However what may be unique is that three siblings from the same family have gained basketball scholarships to the USA.


The first Fotu to dip his toes in the US was Isaac who headed to the University of Hawaii in 2012 playing two seasons with the Warriors before turning pro.

The 23-year-old Tall Black regular has recently signed with leading German club Ratiopharm Ulm for the 2017-18 European season. The power forward has spent the last three seasons playing in Spain firstly for La Bruixa d’Or Manresa and for the past two seasons CAI Zaragoza.

Sister Gabriella (Ella) had a less than happy time at Boise State in 2015-16 but enjoyed a successful 2016-17 campaign at Hawaii Pacific. The 21-year-old guard averaged 7.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists last season for the Sharks earning an honourable mention in the All-PacWest Conference. Ella scored a season high 19 points at Notre Dame de Namur in January.

ella fotu

18 year-old Daniel, was a member of the Junior Tall Blacks team that recorded an historic win against Australia at the 2016 Oceania Championships in Fiji last December. Dan averaged 7.5 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in the tournament but injury ruled him out of the subsequent 2017 U19 World Cup in Cairo last July

All three Fotu’s have attended Rangitoto College on Auckland’s north shore. A school that has produced, in addition to Isaac, full internationals Penina Davidson, Brooke Blair, Tai Wynyard and most famously Sean Marks.

Dan already has two Schick New Zealand Secondary Schools National Championships winner’s medals to his name and heads to Palmerston North next week hoping to make it a trifecta.

Neither Ella nor Isaac enjoyed the thrill of winning a Secondary Schools championship but both picked up national titles playing for North Harbour. In fact the pair received the unusual distinction of claiming the MVP title at the same tournament – the Under 23 National Championships in Tauranga in 2013. Ella led Harbour to the Women’s title against Waikato and Isaac the men’s as they defeated Counties Manukau to claim gold.


All three have turned out for Harbour whenever possible, with Ella giving up part of her recent summer break from Hawaii to play for Harbour Breeze in the Women’s Basketball Championship. She made an immediate impact on her return averaging a team high 18 points per game as the Breeze clinched the Plate title in Christchurch back in July.

Perhaps basketball in New Zealand can bottle the genetics of the Fotu seniors Manu and Jenny because whatever they have seems to be a potent potion.

Oh, and the Fotu’s may not be finished yet – 13 year old Jacob, a budding hoopster, is in year 9 at Rangitoto – watch this space.

Isaac Letoa reflects on sensational past twelve months


Isaac Letoa

The teenage Tall Black has had a year he will never forget. He reflects on his full international debut, epic campaign with the Junior Tall Blacks and of course securing a scholarship at prestigious Ivy League School, Dartmouth College. I spoke with Isaac before he left for the USA.

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31 points from Abercrombie but Wisconsin defeat Breakers Select


The New Zealand Breakers Select, after leading with six minutes to play, were defeated 85-75 by Wisconsin University Badgers at Atlas Place on Tuesday.

Kirk Penney, the tenth leading scorer in Wisconsin history and a member of the UW Athletics Hall of Fame, didn’t suit up for the game but received a warm round of applause from the travelling Wisconsin supporters when he entered the gym.

The Breakers featured just two contracted players Mika Vukona and Tom Abercrombie.

The pair boast a collective 568 appearances for the club and used that experience to good effect in the opening exchanges. Abercrombie converted an And-1 play on the opening possession and Vukona scored inside.

Abercrombie proceeded to dominate the back end of the quarter scoring with a dunk, another And-1 play and a brace of threes on four consecutive possessions as the hosts carved out a 24-15 quarter time lead.

D’Mitrik Trice, brother of Brisbane Bullets point guard Travis Trice, got things moving for the Badgers with a couple of triples as they wrestled the lead away from the Breakers. Despite a couple of jumpers from Academy player Kruz Perrott-Hunt the Badgers led 44-42 at half-time.

Super City Rangers forward Hyrum Harris impressed in the third stanza for the Breakers notching eight points in the period with a succession of left handed moves. Cantabrian point guard Taylor Britt scored with a slashing drive to tie the game up at 57 points apiece at three-quarter time.

Things looked promising for the hosts during the opening exchanges of the final quarter. Britt, with his jump shot in rhythm, made four baskets in four minutes and with Harris and Dan Fotu chiming in with scores the Breakers led 69-63 with 5:50 to play.

The Badgers, led by sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl (28 points including 7 from 9 from 3-point range) responded with a 14-0 run to take the game away from the Breakers.

Tom Abercrombie connected with his fifth triple of the night to narrow the advantage to 81-74 with 2:10 to play but it was the Badgers that had the final say in front of a substantial number of travelling fans.

Wisconsin’s five game tour resumes on Thursday when the Badgers play in Tauranga in their second game against Breakers Select before heading to Australia for games against Sydney Kings and Melbourne Tigers.

Breakers Select 75 – Abercrombie 31, Britt 17, Harris 13, Vukona 4, Fotu 4, Perrott-Hunt 4, Barrow 2

Wisconsin 85 – Pritzl 28, Happ 17, Davison 13

Cal Berkeley and NZ Premiers thrill large crowd

Cal and Premiers

Photo courtesy of Mollie McClure

The University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears and New Zealand Premiers put on a cracking exhibition of women’s basketball at North Shore Events Centre on Sunday.

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Penina Davidson retuning to NSEC on Sunday


Penina Davidson is relishing the opportunity to play in front of family and friends for the first time since 2013.

“To get to come back now as a senior and play in my hometown for the first time since high school is pretty cool,” said the former Rangitoto College standout.

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Sooners impress in win against NZ Premiers

Sooners v NZ Premiers

The University of Oklahoma Sooners may have only been in the country for 24 hours but they still proved far too good for the New Zealand Premier team winning 133-91 at Auckland Grammar School on Sunday.

The Premier team put up a good showing early on but were overpowered in the second half by the 2016 NCAA Tournament semi-finalists. Kiwi Matt Freeman scored 8 points for the Sooners who got their four game tour of Australasia off to a winning start.

The Canterbury Under 23 Championship winning trio of Sam Smith, Joe Cook-Green and Taylor Britt combined well in the opening stages as they, Nick Barrow and Dominique Kelman-Poto gave the Premiers a rather unexpected 12-0 start.

Lightning quick point guard Trae Young exhibited his penetrative powers and Brady Manek his three point prowess as Oklahoma found their scoring rhythm at the back end of the first period.

Finnish forward Hannes Polla, along with Freeman the only other none American on the Sooners roster, capped the strong visitors comeback to snatch a 33-30 quarter time lead.

A drive and basket from hometown favourite Freeman drew applause from both sets of supporters.

Texas Wesleyan University bound Smith continued to impress for the hosts, as did Brady Manek for the Sooners.

Local Auckland Grammar seniors Thomas Whyte and Tom Higgins joined the fray – Higgins finishing nicely in the paint but the Premiers down 66-55 in an entertaining first half.

American College teams are permitted 10 practices before overseas tours but that was ten more than the Premier team had had but the first half showing belied that fact, Sooners coach Lon Kruger complimentary of the Premiers effort.

“It was a very good to battle early, I thought New Zealand opened the ball game very well, very sharp and obviously well coached and knew how to play. I thought our guys got a little more confident as the game went on but a really good first game for us and really appreciate the great crowd, great atmosphere and great opponents, said Kruger.

Cook-Green and Britt combined for scores to open the second half but a spectacular drive from Young countered that. Denhym Brooke scored with a put back before the big Finn Polla stretched the Sooners lead beyond twenty points.

The third school student in the Premier team, Rosmini’s Kruz Perrott-Hunt, nailed a corner three – Thomas Whyte connected from the head of the key – but the Prems trailed 100-76 at three-quarter time.

Super City Rangers forward Nick Barrow and Kelman-Poto continued to do sterling work in the paint but the Sooners got rolling in the fourth entertaining the crowd of over 600 with an impressive display that showcased their speed and athleticism.

Freeman finished with 8 points in a performance that pleased his coach.

“Very happy for Matt, a terrific young guy, great great family, they have been so supportive and for Matt to come home to Auckland and to have family and friends here and to then go out and play well, make shots. I’m very pleased for him,” added Kruger.


After reaching the NCAA Tournament final four in 2016 the Sooners struggled last season going 5-13 in Conference play and 11-20 overall. Kruger feels the tour is timely for his team.

“The timing for this group is especially good with new guys coming in (three freshmen) and guys returning who will have enhanced roles over a year ago.”

“Culturally for the guys to travel to different parts of the world and see the hospitality and the friendliness of the people here. After the game on the court mingling with the young people especially is a big part of the trip.”

The Sooners will get to do some sightseeing in Auckland on Monday before heading to Sydney with games lined up against Sutherland Sharks, Sydney Kings and Cairns Taipans to complete their four game tour.

NZ Premiers 91

Smith (Canterbury / Brown Mackie College, USA) 24 pts

Kelman-Poto (Counties Manukau) 18pts/8rebs

Britt (Canterbury) 13pts/4rebs/5assists

Cook-Green (Canterbury / Northwest Florida State, USA) 10pts/7rebs/8assists)

Whyte (Auckland Grammar School) 6pts

Pierantoni (North Harbour) 6pts

Brooke (University of Hawaii /North Harbour) 4pts

Barrow (Super City Rangers) 4pts

Perrott-Hunt (Rosmini College) 4pts

Higgins (Auckland Grammar School) 2pts

Oklahoma Sooners 133 – Young 21, Manek 17, Khadeem 16, James 13, Odomes 11, Freeman 8

Oklahoma Sooners v NZ Premiers to be streamed live




Good news for basketball fans not in Auckland or those unable to get tickets for the Oklahoma versus NZ Premiers game on Sunday is that the game will be live streamed.

There is plenty of interest in the game with former Westlake Boys High standout Matt Freeman stepping on court in NZ for the first time since embarking on his college career last year.

The game tips off at 3pm at Auckland Grammar School on Sunday (August 6th). The Premiers team will feature a number of Kiwis currently based at American Colleges including Joe Cook-Green, Denhym Brooke and Dominique Kelman-Poto.

Live streaming information here

Yanni Wetzell commits to Vanderbilt

After a couple of stand out seasons at St Mary’s University, San Antonio, former Westlake Boys High stand out Yanni Wetzell has committed to Vanderbilt for his final two years of collegiate basketball.


Wetzell was the Heartland Conference Freshman of the Year in 2016 and last season received further recognition when selected for the All-Heartland Conference Second Team. That selection came after leading the St Mary’s Rattlers in points (15.5ppg) and rebounds (6.8rpg) in 2016-17.

The move to the Vanderbilt Commodores will be a step up for the 6’10” forward as he moves from NCAA Division II action to the powerful Division one Southeastern Conference that includes the likes of Texas A&M and Kentucky.

There will be high expectations at Purdue under coach Bryce Drew as the Rattlers made the NCAA Tournament in both 2016 and 2017.

Despite Tai Webster being about to move into the professional ranks Westlake Boys High will still be able to boast four former students at NCAA Division I colleges in the 2017-18 season. 2016 senior Isaac Letoa has recently signed with Dartmouth, Matt Freeman has completed his freshman year at Oklahoma and Jack Salt will enter his third season at Virginia.

Wetzell’s outstanding freshman year at St Mary’s was noted by Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare who selected him for the tour of China by the New Zealand Select Team last year.

Further representative honours would appear to be just around the corner for Wetzell.

Auckland Premier Qualifiers Found


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.