College Sport: Rising star helping lift Kelston to higher level

By Campbell Burnes

Talented teen’s ambition benefiting school and bringing US dream closer.
Linus Jakszt says Kelston Boys' return to the prems has earned respect across the school. Picture / Nick Reed
Linus Jakszt says Kelston Boys' return to the prems has earned respect across the school. Picture / Nick Reed

Like the Kelston Boys' High School premier basketball team, Linus Jakszt has come a long way in just three years.

The 17-year-old Year 13 sports prefect was a fast learner, taking up basketball in earnest in 2013 when Kelston were halfway through a five-year plan to make it back to the top flight of schools basketball.

Jakszt had height and athleticism, honed by a football background, but he lacked understanding of the nuances of the game and you couldn't ask him to lay up with his left hand.

"They were going off to a junior prems tournament in Rotorua. I jumped in and learned the rules on the way to the event," he says.

The rest is, as they say, history. Now he is the captain as Kelston makes a successful re-entry into premier league basketball. His coach Jeff Fahrensohn calls him their "franchise player".

Used as a power forward, small forward or centre, Jakszt is the go-to man at either end of the floor. In the April qualifying tournament he poured in 48 points against Macleans, averaging 28 ppg for the competition, and has put up consistent numbers, and three double doubles, in Kelston's four premier league games: 27 points and 12 rebounds against Westlake, 28 and 21 against Liston, 23 and eight against Onehunga and 32 and 12 just last Friday night in the narrow win over Rosmini.

"My personal goal going into each game is to average 25 points and get as many rebounds as possible," declares Jakszt.

Kelston are proving more than competitive and have their goals for this season, and the success of this team is proof that Kelston is far more than just a rugby and league school.

"Basketball is now back in prems and it's getting acknowledged by the school, which is great," Jakszt says.

The jump is a big one from where they were in 2015, playing in the Western Zone Under 19 league. The players in prems are taller, more experienced and with real basketball pedigree. At 199cm Jakszt bangs bodies with the best.

He was good enough to play for the New Zealand Under 17s last year, which saw him pulled in to train with the NBL side the Super City Rangers, for whom he appeared in the pre-season. Throw in Saturday club play for the Waitakere Under 19s and his senior studies and Jakszt has rather a full plate.

"The Under 19s is ... really competitive. Harbour is our main opponent, with the Westlake and Rangi boys, but it's real good fun."

He may be busy but he knows the sacrifices that go with wanting to go higher in his sport.

"You don't have much time to go out anyway if you want to do the thing you love."

He is knuckling down with his studies too, as that will be a factor in his quest for a US college basketball scholarship next year. That and the Junior Tall Blacks are his 2017 goals.

So is he inspired by Steven Adams and his NBA exploits with Oklahoma City Thunder?

"I love watching him. They are my favourite team. I met him at a camp at Trusts Stadium, he's a real cool dude," says Jakszt, who, like Adams, thirsts for improvement.

"I'm working on being a better shooter. I want to spread the floor too, so I'm working on [handling]."

Jakszt has the talent and the work ethic, and Kelston will benefit in the short-term.

Coach hopes to tick off second goal

When Jeff Fahrensohn took the coaching reins at Kelston BHS's basketball programme in 2011, the sport at the west Auckland school was at a low ebb.

Despite a proud basketball history, which included winning the nationals in 1982, the top team were relegated from the premier league at the end of 2010. There was a lack of pride and numbers.

"There were only 3-4 turning up to trainings," says Fahrensohn, an old boy and former NBL player.

Along with old boys Shane Compain and Tom Blair, who all played NBL together for the Waitakere Rangers, they presented a five-year plan to return to premier league. They hit their five-year deadline. But it needed building from the Year 9s up, not recruiting from other schools.

Fahrensohn visited local intermediate schools and cranked up the Kelston basketball academy. His 2016 captain Linus Jakszt was one of the raw prospects who was unearthed.

After gradual progress made by the top Under 19 side, they arrived at the premier qualifying tournament in April needing a top two finish to win the coveted promotion. Critical wins over St Kentigern and Mt Roskill Grammar saw Kelston, to great jubilation, back in the top flight, along with MAGS. They have now won three of their first four games to lie second equal.

"They understand that they might not be as skilled as the top schools, but if they can be fitter, they can run harder and longer," says Fahrensohn, tipping his hat to trainer Brent Ihaka.

The school has six teams this year. There is a 30-page playbook entitled The Brotherhood, which encapsulates the ethos and philosophy of Kelston basketball.

The first goal - winning promotion - can be ticked off. Now the aim is a top half of the table finish to qualify for the schools nationals for the first time since 2010.

On Friday, Kelston face MAGS at Avondale College. Tipoff is at 7.30pm.

- NZ Herald

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