In NZ team for Vegas
Bright future at 12
Sariah Penese didn’t have much choice when it came to basketball – her family were mad about the game, so she was always going to dribble, shoot and weave.
However, the Brandon Intermediate 12-year-old has far exceeded her whanau’s expectations – Penese will travel to Las Vegas in July to represent New Zealand as the youngest member of the Kiwi under15 team.
She was picked for the squad at basketball camp over the summer holidays, and can’t wait to travel to the United States for the first time. ‘‘I’m happy and excited and proud,’’ she says. Twelve girls will travel to Las Vegas for 10 days for a face-off against US teams in an annual tournament set up by Wellington’s ‘‘Mr Basketball’’, coach and former Saints player Kenny Mcfadden.
Penese’s team-mates are mostly 14 years old, and many had no idea she was so young during their play-offs at summer camp, says mum Luana.
‘‘The coaches said she was quite mature in her approach to the game.’’
It was a pleasant shock when Penese was selected, says Luana.
‘‘I saw the calibre of talent there and I thought wow, these girls are pretty talented. When they said she made the team I just couldn’t believe it.’’
Penese’s parents met while playing basketball, and her American Samoan dad Nixon coaches Penese in a midweek women’s league in Kilbirnie.
Luana is pregnant with her fifth daughter now, enough kids to form a basketball team, she points out. ‘‘It’s almost like a religion in our family.’’ Being the oldest child in a Pacific Island family has made Penese grow up fast, and she brings that maturity to her sport, says Luana.
The family association makes basketball special for Sariah, an all-round sportswoman who also plays volleyball, netball and flag, and finds time for karate and swimming on top of that.
‘‘It’s a lot of fun and it reminds me of my family – we all play together,’’ she says.
Representing New Zealand at top level is a dream for Penese that’s now one step closer.
‘‘I’ve thought of getting a scholarship and I’d like to play for New Zealand again, in the Tall Ferns.’’
Hoop dreams: Brandon Intermediate’s Sariah Penese will represent New Zealand in an under-15 women’s team in Las Vegas this July, an achievement that brings her closer to her goal of becoming a Tall Fern.