Way back in April, I was lucky enough to be selected for the New Zealand Under 17 basketball team to compete in the Asia Cup in Doha and then hopefully the World Cup in Spain.
I experienced many emotions: pride, happiness, shock and nervousness. Nervous about what lay ahead. Would I be good enough? All those things that you feel when you are selected for a team. But I can tell you now, speaking to you today has made me much more nervous.
It is a great honour to represent your school, your province and your country, but also incredibly humbling.
Going to an international event, you do some strange things. For starters, we had to get off the plane after 30 plus hours and go straight to a media session to take photos. After 30 hours on a plane, I was not my prettiest.
We then mingled at the hotel with other teams, and they were not the size that I’m used to seeing back home. For example, when we played Serbia, the whole team was 6 foot 5 or over. When we played Canada, they had a player who was 7 foot six, I’m 6 foot 2.
Apart from the basketball, which was great, in Doha we stayed in a 6 star hotel. In Spain we stayed in a resort hotel on the Mediterranean, with a massive pool.
On the basketball side, we finished third in the Asia Cup. Incidentally I scored our team's first and last 3 pointer in Asia, and qualified for the World Cup where we finished 12th. At the start of the process, 208 countries were involved.
Countries like Spain and France have basketball academies where the players live, do their school work and play basketball. We played the third, fourth and fifth ranked teams in our pool and were ranked 12th. We basically played against professional teams, but watching the Americans, they were another level. They had the number 1 ranked guy in my class of 2023 in their team. At the Under 17 World Cup, the American’s record is 55 wins and no losses.
For me, apart from basketball and being treated like professional athletes, the biggest thrill was being called out onto the court with name and number, singing the national anthem and doing the haka, in the black singlet. The pride in knowing you are representing your country, your family and your school. A pretty unreal moment.
Yes, I am immensely proud of being lucky enough to represent my country on the world stage, but I know that a lot of people helped me on the journey. So to finish, I would like to acknowledge and thank some people.
Thank you to the staff here at Otago Boys', for your support and encouragement. A special thank you to Mr Eaton for his support of our school team on Friday nights. Thank you to Darcy Knox, Hamish Robertson, and of course Mr Matehaere for the amazing coaching and guidance. To Greg and Natalie at Basketball Otago and to all of the boys who I have shared a court with at Otago Boys' and Otago. Ollie Cashmore, Noah McDowall and Eric Peita and your families - we played a lot of ball together and your families were always so supportive. Thank you.
Lastly, to everyone in this room, whatever you do, play a sport because you love it, work hard and after that it’s in the hands of the sport gods.