Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - SPORT - Danielle Jarvis

ELLA To­faeono has gone from be­ing a tall pri­mary school stu­dent who did not ‘fit in’ to a cham­pion bas­ket­ball player. The tow­er­ing teenager re­cently won the Karen Dal­ton Ju­nior Metro com­pe­ti­tion bas­ket­ball Fe­male Player of the Year award.

To­faeono was also named in the Waratah League All­Star Five.

It’s been a busy year for the 19-year-old from Oakhurst. In Au­gust, she was named best de­fen­sive player in the Waratah League 2016 All-Star Fives for Youth League Di­vi­sion 1 and was se­lected in the un­der-20s NSW squad.

Af­ter a knee in­jury forced To­faeono out of the NSW un­der-18 side in 2015, she came back fight­ing and was re­warded with the out­stand­ing sea­son stud­ded with ac­co­lades. And this month, she be­came the in­au­gu­ral win­ner of Bas­ket­ball NSW’s Karen Dal­ton Award.

Youth League coach Leoni Moore said To­faeono had the skills to play mul­ti­ple roles on the court.

“She’s al­ways been tall for her age so she gen­er­ally plays in the cen­tre but she has a skill set that al­lows her to play mul­ti­ple roles which is one of the rea­sons she was se­lected to the All-Star Fives,” Moore said.

While she has en­joyed suc­cess this sea­son – her sixth play­ing bas­ket­ball – To­faeono said she was ready to quit af­ter her first year.

“Then I started to im­prove and get some­where that I never imag­ined I could,” she said.

As a pri­mary school stu­dent, she said, she would of­ten get into trou­ble, and cred­its bas­ket­ball with get­ting her life back on track.

“I have so much struc­ture in my life and I’m held ac­count­able for things,” she said. “I have grown and ma­tured, in bas­ket­ball and be­cause of bas­ket­ball.

“My ul­ti­mate goal is to in­spire; to use bas­ket­ball as my plat­form to in­spire young teenagers ... es­pe­cially from the Mt Druitt area.

“I feel peo­ple con­form to stereo­types. I want to break those stereo­types, es­pe­cially for Is­lan­der peo­ple and peo­ple from Mt Druitt.”

My ul­ti­mate goal is to in­spire … young teenagers … es­pe­cially from the Mt Druitt area.

Pen­rith Pan­thers Youth League cen­tre Ella To­faeono in ac­tion this sea­son. Picture: Noel Rowsell (pho­toex­cel­

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