Koya­mainavure Now Look­ing to the Fu­ture

Fiji Sun - - Sports - Source: FIBA Feed­back: leonec@fi­jisun.com.fj

Bas­ket­ball in Fiji is en­ter­ing a tran­si­tion pe­riod. With the core of the men’s na­tional team ag­ing, it is time for play­ers like 21-year- old Mataika Koya­mainavure to step into the spot­light and take a lead­ing role. Koya­mainavure might be one of the youngest mem­bers of the Fi­jian men’s na­tional team but he is ready and will­ing to take that next step. “There is go­ing to be a real chance for us younger play­ers to step up and take own­er­ship of the na­tional team,” he said. Koya­mainavure’s first ap­pear­ance for the Fi­jian na­tional team was at the 2015 Pa­cific Games in Pa­pua New Guinea, where his side made it to the gold medal game but ul­ti­mately fell to Guam on a buzzer beater from Tai Wes­ley. It was an im­pres­sive first show­ing for Koya­mainavure with a tour­na­ment av­er­age of 13.5 points per game. His top per­for­mance came against Samoa with 25 points on 9 of 11 shoot­ing to go along with 6 re­bounds. Koya­mainavure at­tributes his prepa­ra­tion to his experience of play­ing col­le­giate bas­ket­ball in the United States. “Here I am able to get in 30 plus games against amaz­ing com­pe­ti­tion where in Fiji I can maybe only get 15 re­ally good games in a year,” said the 2.04m for­ward, cur­rently study­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Mis­souri West­ern State Univer­sity. “Over­all my col­lege experience has made me a bet­ter per­son on and off the court.” Koya­mainavure av­er­aged 7.7 points on 55 per­cent shoot­ing and 4.2 re­bounds in 19.3 min­utes per game last sea­son. How­ever, it hasn’t al­ways been easy for the 21-year-old.

“My first year of col­lege was a big change for me, the style of play is so dif­fer­ent and took me time to ad­just,” he re­called. This abil­ity to adapt is go­ing to serve Koya­mainavure well mov­ing for­ward with FIBA’s new com­pe­ti­tion sys­tem com­ing into ef­fect in 2017.

It will give Koya­mainavure and Fiji’s se­nior men’s na­tional team the op­por­tu­nity to test their abil­ity to com­pete in home and away games against teams all over Asia and the Pa­cific. Up-and-com­ing na­tional team play­ers like Koya­mainavure will thrive un­der the new sys­tem, with its cal­en­dar pro­vid­ing the plat­form for young play­ers to emerge through reg­u­lar of­fi­cial com­pe­ti­tion. Koya­mainavure will have ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to step up and take the reigns of the na­tional team, a chal­lenge he is aware of and up for. “I am ner­vous but ex­cited about the pos­si­bil­ity of step­ping up and be­com­ing a leader of our na­tional team,” he said. As well as his de­sire to step up on the court, Koya­mainavure is also very passionate about in­spir­ing the youth of Fiji.

“I re­ally want all of the kids of Fiji to know that if they want some­thing then all they have to do is is fight for it. They just have to keep fight­ing,” he said.

Photo: Team Fiji

Mataika Koya­mainavure (sec­ond row, sec­ond from right), with his Team Fiji Bas­ket­ball team­mates dur­ing the Pa­cific Games in PNG last year.

Mataika Koya­mainavure

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