Maori basketball helps kids
For the first time ever representatives from South Waikato iwi Ruakawa have competed as a collective in the annual National Maori Basketball Tournament.
Raukawa Basketball Association chairperson Melissa Dawson and secretary Natasha Vano said five teams took part in the Rotorua based tournament, including under 11 teams for boys and girls, an under 13 team of boys, an under 15 team of girls, and an open men’s team.
Dawson said the aim was to give youth a positive pathway to follow.
‘‘What’s happening In Tokoroa is kids are getting caught up in gang and cyber life which is unrealistic stuff so our thing is we want to build up our kids, not just Maori kids, kids in general, and give them a pathway,’’ she said.
Vano said the teams had mixed results during the tournament but everyone had a good time.
‘‘We had around 50 players and they were awesome,’’ she said.
‘‘The Under 11 Boys placed third in the B grade and got a bronze medal, the Under 11 Girls came fourth, Under 13 Boys came fourth in the A grade, and the Under 15 Girls had a awesome time considering only three of their players had played before.’’
‘‘Our men’s team should have done better, they only won one game, but they loved it and enjoyed it anyway. It was the first proper tournament most of them had been to so it was a good learning curve,’’ she said.
She said it’s now hoped basketball will grow further in the South Waikato which has traditionally been a rugby league stronghold.
‘‘I think Steven Adams has helped the hype and being able to get to NBA has boosted basketball in New Zealand,’’ she said.
‘‘Everyone wanted to be Michael Jordan and Lebron James but now they want to be Steven Adams and it is really cool he is from Rotorua which is just over there. It’s given our kids hope that they too can achieve what he has.’’
Dawson said the tournament also doubled as a chance for participants to get in touch with Maoritanga.
‘‘Our kaumatua Billy Maea and Poutapu Winikerei taught our kids a haka and a song written especially for it. The whole tournament was filled with joy, excitement, competitiveness, and haka. It was surreal,’’ she said.
They thanked those who helped.