Junior Tall Fern Akiene Reed is spending her senior years of secondary school in the United States, studying and playing basketball, which is an early departure when most U.S. bound players tend to stay in New Zealand until they finish secondary school. Leaving the comforts of the family home in early teenage years is not for everyone, but Reed did just that when she left Westlake Girls High School and the family home on Aucklands north shore mid-way through Year 10.

Reed was back in New Zealand recently to play for the JTFs against China. She had a stand out performance in game two where the guard scored a game high 20 points and added eight rebounds and four steals.

Shes returning to Life Centre Academy, New Jersey for a third and final year. In the past two seasons Reed has played 93 games for Life Centre, known as the Warriors, and is only 37 points shy of 1,000 points for the team.

The Warriors play in the NISAA (National Independent Schools Athletic Association) League and the 188cm guard averages 16.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in one of the premier high school conferences in the US.

The Warriors season is a busy one, with the team often playing four games a week. Reed says its the volume of games and the intensity of the fixtures that drew her to the U.S.

"In New Zealand the players definitely have the fundamentals and the skills, but the intensity back in the U.S. is a lot higher. There are so many players competing for spots that it is very intense. The attraction is that you get to play a lot and get game time under your belt.

"In our conference we have really good competition, its said to be the best in the country, and this means every game is really tough," said Reed.

The level of competition is beneficial for a player that has ambitions to play college basketball.

"For me it is largely about basketball and getting a Division 1 college scholarship.

Ive had interest from colleges, but I havent made a decision yet. I will decide later this year where I will go. A lot of the seniors in my year decided a long time ago, so Im kind of late" she said.

She also points out that academic achievement is also important.

"Our coach is high on players maintaining their academic standards. We have to sign a contract that covers playing standards, off court behaviour and academic standards. You need to stay off the D list otherwise you get stood down from games."

Reed initially headed to California in Year 9 for schooling but in her words "I hated it. I didnt like the school or the area and the standard of basketball wasnt very good."

Fortunately second time around things have worked out well. "I had a clear mind on what I had to get done, I was prepared and knew what my goals were."

One of her immediate goals is rejoining the Junior Tall Ferns for the Oceania Championships in December. Amusingly for someone who doesnt turn 18 until later this month she was surprised how young the team is (nine of the squad are younger than Akiene).

"I havent played with many of these girls before. Some of the girls are really young but they have great skills.

"I love it being part of the team and I am looking forward to taking on the Australians later in the year," she added.

For now its back to the classroom and practice court in New Jersey and another few months away from friends and family.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand