This is just the be­gin­ning, says top tal­ent with eye on Games

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

MOST peo­ple know He­ber­sham’s Maryanne Latu as a 17-year-old cham­pion wheel­chair bas­ket­baller, but she’s been beat­ing the odds all her life. At just seven months old Latu was di­ag­nosed with neu­rob­las­toma. The tu­mour cov­ered her spine and killed most of her nerves, par­tic­u­larly to her legs.

By the age of five, she was in a wheel­chair but she did not let it stop her from be­com­ing a cham­pion basketball player.

“The only time I would use my wheel­chair is when my class had an ex­cur­sions or a long dis­tance to get to places,” Latu said.

As she watched her broth­ers play­ing rugby, Latu de­cided she wanted to do some­thing spe­cial with her life too.

“Time, days, months went past and I be­gan to pic­ture my­self play­ing wheel­chair basketball,” Latu said.

“I choose basketball be­cause I en­joy be­ing able to com­pete on an even play­ing field.”

Latu was part of the NSW ju­nior basketball team that won the Kevin Coombs Cup in May.

“It felt good bring­ing the tro­phy back home, be­com­ing the 2015 rookie of the year, trav­el­ling around Aus­tralia with my team mates to play in the Women’s Wheel­chair Basketball Na­tional League rep­re­sent­ing Syd­ney Metro Blues,” she said.

Latu said she dreams of go­ing to the Olympics in 2020.

“Com­ing into wheel­chair basketball I never thought of all the achieve­ments I re­ceived, in­di­vid­ual and as a team,” she said. “I’m truly blessed with this tal­ent and hope to see my­self play­ing at 2020 Olympics, at Tokyo and rep­re­sent­ing Aus­tralia and my back­ground, King­dom of Tonga.”

For now she is pre­par­ing for her next com­pe­ti­tion the ju­nior na­tional cham­pi­onship in Townsville next April.

When it comes to in­spi- ra­tion, Latu said she only looks up to God.

“Been through a lot in my life but I’m a fighter and this is just the be­gin­ning,” she said.

“I look up to my Heav­enly Fa­ther be­cause he has blessed me with this tal­ent.

“I have be­come more con­fi­dent, not only in my basketball but in life and I have made a lot of new friends.”

Maryanne Latu plays with the Syd­ney Metro Blues in the Na­tional Wheel­chair Basketball League. Pic­ture: Basketball Aus­tralia

Maryanne Latu plays in the Na­tional Wheel­chair Basketball League. Pic­ture: Tom Bras­sil

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