There is an extra bounce in the step of the Tauranga City Coasters ahead of tomorrow's opening match in the national Women's Basketball Competition.
Power forward Maka Daysh has returned home from two years playing basketball for Chadron State University in Nebraska to join the Coasters in a hugely significant move.
Coach Rachel Gwerder could not wipe the smile off her face when asked what impact Daysh will have on the team's campaign.
"She is key and her leadership is part of the reason she is key because she bonds people together. She just has one of those personalities," Gwerder said.
"To be honest she could have picked any team to go to in the country. Everybody would have snaffled her up and some tried. Just the fact that she stayed local is something that we really appreciate as without a few players who can really compete at this level you can't put a team on the floor."
Gwerder said Daysh was an inspiration to the younger members of her squad.
"The cool thing about her having been to the States is she is the first [from here]. So the young ones sitting on the bench are aspiring to get there themselves."
Daysh, 19, said her experience in America was so valuable.
"I think it is a huge stepping stone for anyone that wants to improve their basketball. Just the life experience that I gained personally was huge for me," she said.
"I saw the change in myself as a person in a good way. I grew up a lot over there maturity-wise on and off the court.
"The level of basketball over there is another level up and to come back here and see how your game grew in different ways was really awesome for myself to see."
It will be the Coasters' third year in the competitive league but they will field one of the youngest teams with four 16-year-olds and six others under 21.
Gwerder said only two of her players were ineligible to play at under-23 level so she was realistic about their chances.
"Moving forward this season we definitely have the opportunity to get some wins. I think we are realistic that we are still a young group not just in age but in association with this programme which has been up and running for 15 years and this is just our third year.
"We are very much the new kids on the block."
One of the older hands is Texi Schaeffer, 26, from Texas who was spotted playing in the Tauranga club leagues. Courtney Wilson, Cairyn Rogers and Kaatia Watene return for their third year with the Tauranga City Coasters also featuring two sets of sisters in Te Hiria and Ngatai Bennett and Cairyn and Briarley Rogers.
Tauranga City Coasters play Waikato Wizards at QEII Centre at Memorial Park from 5pm tonight. Free entry.