Basketball: Massive six months for promising basketball star

Samuel Waardenburg. New Zealand 3x3 Basketball headshots session. Photo / Photosport
Samuel Waardenburg. New Zealand 3x3 Basketball headshots session. Photo / Photosport

With so much focus on Steven Adams in the NBA Western Conference Finals, New Zealand's reputation as a nursery and producer of outstanding basketball talent has never been stronger.

And tomorrow another crop of exciting young players are set to leave for the FIBA U18 3X3 World Championships in Kazakhstan and amongst them is 17 year old Sam Waardenburg as he contemplates a raft of opportunities to make an impression on scouts around the world.

Waardenburg will depart on Thursday alongside Tai Wynyard (Waitakere West Auckland/University of Kentucky), Hamish McDonald (Waikato) and Isaac Letoa (North Harbour) in the men's team headed for Astana and while his focus will be entirely on helping earn New Zealand a third FIBA 3X3 World Championship, he has a calendar that is full of exciting basketball opportunities over the next few months.

Thanks to invites from a variety of sources, the young North Harbour and Breakers Academy power forward has plenty on his plate. Waardenburg will attend the following internationally recognised events or tours over the next six months:

• FIBA 3X3 World Championships (1-5 June, Kazakhstan, selected by BBNZ)
• The Nike Asia Camp in Beijing (7-11 June, nominated by SKYCITY Breakers Academy)
• National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp in the USA (14-18 June, invited by the NBPA)
• Basketball Without Borders Camp in Australia (22-27 June, invite through BBNZ)
• Harbour Basketball Tour to the USA (12-24 July, Harbour Basketball)
• Adidas Nations Tournament in Los Angeles (26 July - 1 August, second invite to this camp from adidas)
• Possible Junior Tall Blacks Tour (TBC in August)
• FIBA Oceania Championships with Junior Tall Blacks (subject to selection, in December 2016).

Basketball New Zealand CEO Iain Potter says that Waardenburg is a great example of the opportunities for young New Zealand players, with international scouts, schools and camps placing New Zealand very high on their list of countries producing good young players.

"Recent years have seen a whole world open up for our young players. Thanks to a generation that has blazed that pathway through the American College system but also those that have gone on to professional leagues in Europe, the USA and right here in the Australian competition, basketball has never before been such a viable option out of New Zealand.

"Basketball New Zealand has also worked hard on our own pathways, identifying and nurturing young talent from a young age, with the Junior Tall Black and Junior Tall Fern programmes a high priority in that development of our best talent along with opportunities at international camps such as Basketball Without Borders that Sam will be attending.

"Plus the Australian NBL and the presence of the Breakers has highlighted what can be achieved by our local talent, with a number of our best young players emerging from the various development pathways throughout the country into professional leagues. This is an exciting time to be a young basketballer in New Zealand, with opportunities at every step of the pathway."

Understandably Waardenburg is a busy young man, but knows his focus must not only be on his on court skills, the Rangitoto College student talks about finding that balance at a critical stage in his young career.

"I plan my week and make sure I devote enough time to my schoolwork. I currently have a GPA of 3.0 and have successfully completed my SAT tests which are needed for entry to an American College. I recognise the need to achieve academically -this is the ticket to being able to play basketball at College level. I am currently working to complete my NCEA Level 3 this year.

"My basketball schedule is pretty busy with practices and games for Supercity Rangers, Breakers Academy training, 3x3 training, Rangitoto Premiers, Harbour U19, and strength and conditioning sessions. I am certainly becoming accustomed to good time management and finding time for rest and recovery as well to make sure I can be at my peak for both basketball and school work."

Waardenburg is in no doubt as to what he wants to achieve in the game, the 208cm tall power forward has eyes on the best competition in the world, as well as a career in the black singlet.

"That is an easy question to answer, my goal is to play in the NBA, and to also be able to play for the Tall Blacks where I can represent my country on the world stage.

"These international camps are going to give me the opportunity to learn from some of the best international coaches from Nike, Adidas and the NBA. I will be able to get superb exposure, so that I hope to secure a scholarship to attend a Division 1 College in the USA.

"Right now though I am totally focused on representing New Zealand and doing my best to help win another FIBA 3X3 World Championships."

Waardenburg will be available for comment, along with his 3X3 team mates before they depart for Europe and the FIBA World Championships this Thursday, with interview opportunities at the international departure check in this Thursday morning.

- NZ Herald

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