This week, budding young athletes have been battling it out on the court around the country as part of Basketball New Zealand's U13 regional championships. In Tauranga, 41 teams consisting of more than 400 players are playing over four days, ending today. With Basketball New Zealand talent scouts on hand throughout the tournament, it's a chance for budding basketballers to get noticed. But what does a player need to stand out? Kristin Macfarlane finds out.
The Under 13 age group is one that young basketball players can really start to get noticed in their sport.
It may be the entry-level age group into Basketball New Zealand (BNZ) events, but it's still one the national body keeps a close eye on.
• Basketball: Steven Adams masterclass leads Oklahoma City Thunder to massive win over NZ Breakers
• Basketball: The whirlwind week of New Zealand Breakers import Brandon Ashley
• Basketball: Memphis Grizzlies' Kyle Anderson expects 'gritty' challenge from NZ Breakers
This week, the 2019 U13 Northern Regional Championships tournament has been held over four days at Mount Maunganui's Trustpower Arena, hosted by Tauranga City Basketball Association (TCBA). It's one of three BNZ regional champs for the age group being run throughout the country this week, and the last cluster of tournaments for the national body this year.
The northern regional tournament is for representative players in the North Island, from Taupō up, and TCBA general manager Mark Rogers described it as the entry level into BNZ events and an opportunity for kids in that age group to play against other teams they didn't normally get a chance to play. He said it also allowed referee development, he said.
"It gives Basketball New Zealand an entry point in terms of starting to do some talent ID around the kids for the national programmes ... it's also about referee development, so all the young refs here, they're all being developed as well and I suppose the real focus is giving the kids the opportunity to have this experience and hopefully being a step on their pathway."
"Basketball New Zealand's got three lead talent ID people here, plus about another eight people from around the catchment that are helping," Rogers says.
With no national event for this age group, the talent scouts are staying up to date with potential players they can invite to an U14 development camp next year.
"There's a big long list of criteria that they look against but obviously the physical size is a big thing for basketball, their ability to actually play and the individual skills, you know the passing, dribbling, shooting, all that sort of stuff, so it's an entry-level for that. It's not a 'you didn't get picked, you're out of it', it's more a starting to have a look at people and where they sort of fit."
In Tauranga, referees ranging in age from 13-18 have come from their nominated associations to help their development and be part of this week's tournament. Those refs are overseeing the games being played by 41 teams, consisting of about 410 young representative athletes, who have been competing since Wednesday. Among them are seven representative teams from Tauranga City Basketball Associations as well as three representative teams from Rotorua and of those 10 Bay of Plenty squads two of them - Tauranga U13 A Boys and Rotorua U13 Girls - have been playing in the top A grades in the boys' and girls' divisions.
Over the first two days, the TCBA U13A Boys had won all four of their games, with final pool play yesterday and finals today. The Rotorua girls had won two of their four matches.
Team spokeswoman Aroha Haumaha, a former Tall Fern, who also spent four years playing college basketball in America, said the girls had been together for the past couple of years and trained up to twice a week.
Aged between 10 and 12, Haumaha said while a few of the players had come from basketball families, most of them came from strong sporting families that had represented sports such as rugby, touch, netball, tennis and league at regional and national levels.
Because there is no national event that athletes gain towards from this week's competition, Rogers said the idea behind the tournament was to give kids more opportunity to play basketball, away from a "must win at all costs type of mentality".
Rogers said a lot of hard work, umpteen hours and dedicated volunteers were all vital to the successful running of this week's tournament, which was one of many hosted by TCBA this year.
"We've got over 100 volunteers helping out this week, which is awesome. We couldn't do it without the volunteers and they're doing a range of things from score bench, to venue controlling, to helping with food and all that sort of thing, so it's a big ask," Rogers says.
"We do a lot of preparation with Basketball New Zealand because it's one of their events so there's stuff we have to do around draws and entries and that sort of stuff, they run it but we actually do a lot of the grunt work. So our staff do all that sort of back behind the scenes stuff and then it's the actual running of the event and making sure it all runs smoothly."
This year, TCBA has hosted three BNZ competitions, on top of their zone tournaments, one day events for primary and intermediate-aged children and their biggest one, the annual Mel Young Easter Classic.
And next up for the organisation is supporting their representative teams that will travel to Rotorua to play in their tournament at Labour Weekend.
"That's the last of the rep teams for this year and then we have out big break-up event for all our development kids in December."
Before then, this week's competition wraps up, with finals today.