Jackson Stent departs for the United States today, after recently accepting a basketball scholarship to play NCAA Division 1 basketball for Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Considering that Jackson only signed with the school on 23 December, it's been a busy holiday period for the young 6'8 forward.
"I've only just got my visa sorted and my eligibility was only ticked off a few days ago, so it has been a really busy time, but that's all done now and I'm really excited about heading to Louisiana. Now I have to quickly figure out what to pack," says Jackson.
Nicholls State University's top basketball team plays in the NCAA Division 1 Southland Conference.
Off the court, Jackson plans on studying applied sports science and human performance where he will receive a four year Bachelor's Degree while being on a full scholarship which covers tuition, accommodation and meals.
Jackson says he has been approached by a number of schools since mid-2015. He visited some of those colleges, but Jackson said Nicholls State stood out as the right school for him.
"I signed with Nicholls partly because the people there were so friendly and welcoming when I visited last year, and the coaching staff are fantastic. I saw myself fitting in well with Coach Piper's programme and his support around the academic side of things is great. Studying is a big part of my decision too. Studying a double degree whilst over there really intrigues me."
Jackson was the last player of 2015 to be signed, joining the likes of Kayla Manuirirangi, Tegan Graham, Katelin Noyer, Michelle Nicholls, Shalae Salmon, Sam Timmins, Matt Freeman and Tai Wynyard, all of whom signed in 2015 to play for NCAA Division 1 basketball colleges.
Basketball New Zealand Chief Executive Iain Potter says Jackson's signing tops off a great year where there's been an increase in young Kiwi players signing to play basketball alongside scholarship educations.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for these kids and that's one of the great things about basketball, it opens up the possibility of a good education and amazing life experiences if they're lucky, with the added potential to take their basketball careers further. Our young players are proving themselves to be competitive and the well-rounded sort of people that U.S Colleges are looking for. It's great for New Zealand basketball and it's great for our young Kiwi players," says Potter.
Jackson is a 6'8 forward who has represented New Zealand in the U16, U17, and U18 teams. He is originally from Christchurch, but spent a large amount of his High School life playing for Westlake High School in the North Shore and some time with the Breakers Academy. He also played for North Harbour Basketball Association's age group representative teams.
Stent returned to Christchurch for 2015 where he spent his last year of high school to attend Middleton Grange School alongside Sam Timmins - another player who recently departed to play for the University of Washington in the NCAA Division 1 Pac-12 Conference. During this time Stent also played Canterbury Basketball Association' age group basketball. He also spent time with the Canterbury Rams as a development player, and time with the Mainland Eagles Academy where he credits Mark Dickel as an important influence. Mainland Eagles Academy Development Coach Caleb Harrison says Jackson has worked on his game every morning at 6am.
"Jackson is going to redshirt in January which means he won't play games for them this semester, but will begin his classes and work out with the Nicholls State coaches and strength coach. He is playing well right now and we believe he is going to be an asset for their team," says Harrison.