Sports star’s baby bonus
His daddy dream has come early
As Shea Ili cuddles up to his pregnant wife Morgan for our photos, he lovingly rubs her belly, his denim shirt a refreshing change from his usual New Zealand Breakers singlet.
The professional point guard feels fully connected with his unborn baby, who gently kicks at Morgan’s stomach as they chat about their eagerly anticipated December arrival.
Shea’s reaction to his active bub is different to the first time he felt it move, when he pulled his hand away in fright.
“It was weird!” admits the 25-year-old as his wife of three years laughs in agreement.
Morgan, 24 – who lives in Auckland while her basketballer beau is temporarily based in Wellington – beams as she talks about her morning sickness having passed and how she’s feeling great six months in.
“I first felt our baby kick around 20 weeks and it’s really the only thing making me feel pregnant because as soon as I hit 12 weeks, I’ve been really good,” she tells. “I was surprised.”
Shea – who spends his year working between the Sky City Breakers, Tall Blacks and Wellington Saints – is happy but nervous for this next step, with the pair agreeing that they don’t want to know their baby’s gender ahead of the big day.
“Hopefully a surprise will help me get through the birth,” jokes Morgan, who met Shea six years ago in a friend’s garage.
Back then, a 19-year-old Shea had admired the greeneyed beauty from afar when they played at high school basketball tournaments, yet they’d never met.
“He barely spoke to me as he was so shy,” recalls Morgan, admitting that Shea loosened up after a few drinks. “Then we hit it off and he was a sweetheart.”
The former Onehunga High School student cheekily adds, “She forced herself onto me!”
Despite a shared passion for basketball, the couple chose a round of mini golf for their first date.
“He ended up spilling Coke all over his crotch and went home,” laughs Morgan.
Despite this hiccup, the couple fell hard for each other but they were separated when Morgan left a few months later for an international basketball scholarship at the University of Hawaii.
For four years, the couple spent most of their relationship doing longdistance while Shea travelled the world for basketball and Morgan studied psychology.
With Shea’s dream of being a professional basketball player secured, Morgan followed her own goals and went to play basketball in the US, accepting a twoyear scholarship at Oregon Tech University.
“Long-distance worked for us because we were both doing what we wanted, instead of one of us sitting around waiting,” she tells.
In January 2015, before Morgan left for the US, Shea proposed during a windy night-time trip to Devonport Beach, which didn’t go to plan.
“I was leaving a week later for Wellington and I wanted to take her to dinner, but we had a basketball game and my coach said I couldn’t take it off,” Shea explains.
“I had to find some other way to propose, so I got some friends to light candles and arrange them in a heart shape on the beach, but the wind blew them all out!”
Morgan recalls, “He was sweaty from basketball and I just wanted to go home. I got annoyed and started walking back before he got down on one knee.”
The couple married in Auckland in March 2016, before Morgan returned home permanently from the US, and Shea collected various awards including the NBL’s Most Improved Player and Most Valuable Player.
With Shea signing a two-year deal with the Breakers this year, the pair also bought their first home in Birkdale, Auckland.
The couple admit having a baby came earlier than either of them expected.
“We planned to wait longer but found out when Shea was at the Commonwealth Games in March,” says Morgan, who took four separate pregnancy tests to be absolutely sure it was positive.
Shea recalls, “She sent me a text just saying g ‘Babe ‘Babe’ and then a Snapchat of the test. I didn’t know if we were ready or not, but I was s excited.”
Now the couple hope Shea won’t miss their firstborn’s birth while he’s playing basketball in Perth, Christchurch and Wellington.
“I have games around the time the baby’s due, so hopefully it doesn’t come early!” he says.
Either way, Morgan is confident her hubby will make an excellent dad.
“I try so hard to play with our nephews and all he has to do is walk in the room and they’re all over him!” she smiles. “There are so many things we’re looking forward to about being new parents, but bu we’re most excited for the feeling of unconditional love and building that bond together.”
Marrying in 2016, Shea and Morgan are now excitedly awaiting their December arrival, who will have a cute playmate in puppy Boston.
A nervous wait for the couple! “I have games around the time the baby’s due, so hopefully it doesn’t come early,” says Shea.
Fulfilling their hoop dreams in the sport they both love.