Look out Steven Adams, the next New Zealand basketball superstar might just be on the way from Southland.
A surge in popularity in the sport at Aparima College in Riverton has brought new players to the sport and success the school has never experienced before.
Five boys from the school returned earlier this month from the South Island Secondary School Competition, the first time the school had ever sent a team to the tournament, as well as three boys making the Southland team earlier this year for the national championships.
The college also ran six teams across a variety of age groups in Southland-based competitions, with three girls’ and three boys’ teams ranging from year 7 right through to year 10.
Aparima College basketball coach Brook Grimwood said the sport had grown rapidly at the school over the past couple of years.
He said the number of representatives chosen from the school was the highest proportion they had ever seen.
“When I got involved there was no basketball programme. There was basketball coming from the primary school and then it came up here, and when I picked it up we really started to implement more training. We were looking at trying to train a couple of times a week to overcome some of our shortcomings by hard work.”
In the Southland Division A year 9/10 competition, Aparima finished the regular season with the best record, but fell just short in the grand final to Southland Boys’ High.
Grimwood said he was impressed by the dedication of the students, as well as how well they had done throughout their tournaments this year.
He said it was impressive that the school had gone from winning division B to competing at the very top in division A.
“It’s also great to have five kids make the representative team… it’s down to the kids. They work hard to do that and their hard work is reflected on that.”
He believed students were drawn to the sport due to a mixture of it being more accessible to players than other sports, as well as the exposure the sport has received in the region due to the success of the Southland Sharks as well as at a national level with Steven Adams in the NBA.
“A sport with those smaller numbers needed in a team is probably a bit easier to, I guess, fill and then you get the Steven Adams factor which probably had a bit of a say. The fact that they can see one person has made it and there is the potential of that pathway through to the NBA.”
This article was originally written for The Advocate. You can read the published version here