Basketball: Fairytale trip ticks all of the boxes

Cruising Las Vegas' famous Sunset Strip in a hybrid Hummer/limousine before checking out America's finest young NBA players in inter-squad Team USA scrimmages.

It sounds like the lifestyle of an actor, or a rapper, or a certain high-profile Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from Texas A&M; University.

But it was reality for 17-year-old Aquinas College student Courtney Wilson, whose New Zealand Bombers team recently took out the gold division of the varsity grade of an NCAA invitational tournament in Las Vegas.

The tournament was played in the middle of the desert in 46 degrees heat, but the location had its upside.

Wilson got to watch the likes of Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving, Indiana Pacers player Paul George and Denver Nuggets phenomenon Kenneth Faried go head to head under the watchful eyes of NBA legends such as Scottie Pippen and Carmelo Anthony.

"It was amazing, it is so fast in person," said Wilson, whose team had to adapt to a new style of play during the tournament.

"The basketball was incredible; they play a different style of game. They play NCAA rules whereas we play the international rules here.

"Over there, whenever you drive you can get hacked and it's not a foul, but if you body up you get called for a foul. We play quite physically in New Zealand, so the girls had to adjust to that."

Wilson plans to study Health Science at AUT next year, specialising in physiotherapy. Before then, she hopes to perform well at under-23 nationals and lead her team through a national qualifying tournament to nationals, where Aquinas could be every chance of claiming some silverware in a separate competition for smaller secondary schools.

For now, though, memories of the trip of a lifetime remain fresh.

The fairytale even finished with a cliche. Wilson jetted off to Los Angeles at the conclusion of the tournament with the rest of the team.

Their destination? Disneyland.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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