Basketball: Tuki keen to add to her basketball experience

By Mike Lacey

Jessica Tuki playing for the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic. Photo / Getty Images
Jessica Tuki playing for the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic. Photo / Getty Images

Named as a member of the 23-player Tall Ferns trial squad, assembling in Auckland early next month, Jessica Tuki is keen to add to the international appearances she made in 2014.

The Ferns will tour China, Latvia, Belarus and Spain ahead of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France in June.

"Anyone given the opportunity (to play for New Zealand) would take it with both hands and go for it," she said.

A distinguished netball player Tuki was encouraged to switch to basketball following a chance meeting with former basketball Olympian and Waikato Wizards coach Leanne Walker in 2013. Following the meeting the former Silver Fern was invited to attend training with the Wizards and made her Women's Basketball Championship (WBC) debut with the team in 2014.

The 28 year old, despite not having played basketball since school days, made an immediate impression in the WBC. Her rebounding prowess caught the eye of New Zealand head coach Kennedy Kereama and she made the Tall Ferns team for the tour of China in August that year.

Tuki played for the Wizards again in 2015, her strong performances earning her WBC All-Star 5 recognition. Now residing in New Plymouth the 1.85m forward is playing for Taranaki Thunder this season and putting up big numbers including 17 points against her former team last month.

Tuki shifted back to her native Taranaki in 2014 to take up a position with Augusta Funds Management, a company that is very understanding of her international aspirations.

"My work has been really good and I discussed it with my boss around February and explained what was potentially coming up. I'm lucky I have a supportive firm. Augusta Funds Management are the principal sponsors of the Taranaki Mountain Airs NBL team and are heavily involved with the sport, they just want me to take the opportunity if I get it."

Tuki graduated in Accountancy from Waikato University after spending two years at Otago University prior to that.

Her studies have been a stop start affair due to her sporting commitments but that is not something she regrets.

"Although I feel like it's taken forever, having had to study part time for long periods, I have no regrets at all. You are only young once so relish the opportunity to use your body while you can. You always have your desk job to go back to".

Tuki hopes the juggling of training and studying may soon be over.
"I'm aiming to complete my Chartered Accountant studies this year hopefully I will be finished in December.

"With any luck I'll be a CA before I'm 30," she quips

With an international recall a possibility and a six weeks overseas tour the potential reward those CA studies may yet take a little longer.

- NZ Herald

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