Sam Waardenburg's incredible year of basketball continues as the young Rangitoto student has committed to the University of Miami on a full Division 1 Scholarship.
Waardenburg only just returned to New Zealand this morning from visiting the universities of Utah and Miami. After these two official visits, he felt that Miami was the College for him.
"On the visit, after a delay in flights, we arrived in Miami at midnight and Coach Larrañaga and his wife were still there to meet us. There is a real sense of family there, so that was awesome. The programme is great, they're a winning programme and with all the staff and players it's just a great big family. I just really wanted to play for and with them.
"You're only allowed 48 hours on an official visit. They showed us around campus and the facilities. I got to see a practice and talk to everyone in the programme. I got to meet all the other players, coaching and support staff, and academic personnel. It is a private College, so there is a strong emphasis on academics.
"It's just a beautiful city, the temperature is warm all year round, there's lots of green, it's going to be a great second home. I just really enjoyed my time there and it's the place for me."
Waardenburg has come up through the New Zealand basketball system and has represented New Zealand in the 3x3 Under 18 World Championship this year, the Under 17 Men's team that won silver at the age-group's FIBA Oceania Championships last year, and the Under 16 Men's team that won Bronze at the Australian State Championships .
This signing is another major accomplishment for the 208 centimetre power-forward who has already had an outstanding year in basketball. In June he represented New Zealand in the FIBA 3X3 World Championships in Kazakhstan. Later that month he travelled to the 'Nike All Asia Camp' in Beijing where he was named the events' Most Outstanding Player. He was also invited to the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp in the USA. In late June he went to the Basketball Without Borders Camp in Australia, where he was named MVP. In July he travelled with Harbour Basketball to the USA. And in late July he played at the prestigious Adidas Nations Tournament in Los Angeles where he was named one of the top 10 players of the camp by a scouting site. This was the same event that a young Steven Adams really made his name known in the U.S.
Throw into the mix Sam's time with the Supercity Rangers and the Breakers Academy, which led him into a role as a development player for the SKYCITY Breakers, and the 17 year old has spent most of his time playing basketball outside of sleeping and school work.
When asked about Sam earlier this year Basketball New Zealand CEO Iain Potter said 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 attended.
"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."
Waardenburg's next focus is to help his Rangitoto College team defend their title in the SAS Secondary Schools National Championships later this month in Palmerston North. As for the long-term future, Waardenburg is in no doubt as to what he wants to achieve in the game, with his 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."
Waardenburg says he's likely to fly to Miami in January and redshirt in the 2016/17 season.