One of the number one college basketball coaches in the United States is in New Zealand spending time at the SAS Secondary Schools National Basketball Championship, being held in Palmerston North this week, scouting for Kiwi talent.
Stephanie Gaitley is Head Coach of Womens Basketball at Fordham University. She is in the top 20 for the most wins out of college coaches in the United States and is the number one coach for wins in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Coach Gaitley says she was drawn to New Zealand after having coached some of New Zealands best female players.
"I go way back with my Kiwis. The first ever New Zealander to play in the WNBA, played for me - that would be Megan Compain. And Ive had some since - Lana Kershaw, Chevannah Paalvast, and obviously Erin Rooney, so Ive had my share of some very good Kiwis and were working on bringing some more over."
Coach Gaitley is one of the United States most experienced college head coaches with over 30 years experience in the role. She and her team are in New Zealand to make sure theyre recruiting players that will fit well with the rigors of U.S. college athletic and academic requirements.
"I want the total student athlete. I want someone who takes their academics seriously, because typically a kid who goes hard in the classroom is going to go hard for you on the court I want kids that are well-balanced."
Speaking of the players she recruits, she says "You have to be respectful. You have to understand that when you show up, you have to be all in Weve invested close to US$100,000 in you [each year], so we expect you, every day, to bring it!"
Before coaching Coach Gaitley was a player. She says one of her most memorable junior playing days was as a member of the Ocean City High School Girls basketball team, who had a score sheet of 100 losses to 0 wins. "I learnt how to hate to lose at an early age," she smiles when recalling those junior-level games.
Gaitley reached high levels of the U.S College-level, playing in the Final Four for Villanova University and was added to the schools Hall of Fame. Her first coaching job was at St Josephs University, she then went on to coach at Richmond University, Long Island University (Brooklyn), and Monmouth University.
Coach Gaitley then stepped into the Head Coach role for the womens basketball program at Fordham University. Before her appointment, Fordham had been on a 20 year run of forgettable performances, with a small clutch of wins compared to a mounting number of losses. The College credits Gaitley for transforming their womens basketball programme into a national power, especially when her team secured the colleges first Atlantic 10 Womens Basketball Championship in 2013-14.
Gaitley led a team to the NCAA Tournament on eight occasions, compiling 15 20-win seasons and five conference titles over her 30 years as a head coach.
When queried on which New Zealand players shes targeting, Coach Gaitley said she could not name the players until they commit to the college, but that the rising talent in New Zealand was impressive.
"Ive really enjoyed [the visit]. I think theres some high level basketball. I love the environment."
The SAS Secondary Schools National Basketball Championships are on this week in Palmerston North. A selection of games are being livestreamed on Maori TV, including the semi-finals and finals. For more information on the event go to www.basketball.org.nz
See the full interview with Coach Gaitley on YouTube, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIN7ijI_Plo
- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand