Shortcuts in sport are a sure-fire path to failure, but former national league player Andrew McKay didn't hesitate in asking the New Zealand Breakers Academy to go easy on his teenage son last week.

McKay, a former Waikato Pistons national league player who is also CoachForce Bay of Plenty's basketball development officer, had a quiet word in his brother Dave's ear to ensure 17-year-old Derone Raukawa got on the plane yesterday bound for Japan, and the basketball trip of a lifetime, in one piece.

Dave McKay is on the Breakers' coaching staff and, with Raukawa coming off back-to-back national age-group tournaments and a trip to China with the Junior Tall Blacks, his dad was anxious that a late injury might derail his Tokyo excursion.

"I didn't want Derone to be given any favours, but at the same time I didn't want him to be put through too much either and risk rolling an ankle."


Raukawa, who played for Otumoetai College and the Tauranga rep team last year before moving to Auckland at the start of 2012, is one of four New Zealand players on an all-expenses-paid trip to Japan with Basketball Without Borders Asia organisation.

He is one of 50 leading players from 15 countries throughout Asia and Oceania spending four days at Tokyo's Aijnomoto Training Centre under the tutelage of NBA players and coaches.

As well as daily clinics teaching fundamentals of the game, the players will be divided into four teams for games every afternoon and evening.

Raukawa, now based at national schoolboy champions Rosmini College in Takapuna, was speechless when the Japan offer came through a month ago. "I still don't know how I was selected, I think maybe Basketball NZ put my name forward. Dad got the letter and I heard about it a day or so after I got back from China with the Junior Tall Blacks, so it was one great opportunity after another."

Auckland's bright lights beckoned this year for Raukawa with a too-good-to-turn-down opportunity to join the New Zealand Breakers set-up, with former Tauranga Boys' College student and fellow Junior Tall Black Mark Kelly also part of the ANBL champion's development programme.

While Kelly is 2.04m tall and growing, Raukawa is a lightning-quick point guard with unrivalled hand and leg speed, but just 1.80m tall. The specialist point guard's lack of height means he tends to cop a bit of a bashing on the boards.

With such a big workload Raukawa has learned the art of playing injured, as well as being a regular at the physio to get niggles sorted.

He had two weeks in China, where he captained the Junior Tall Blacks against Slovenia, the US and China, came home to play for Waitakere West at the national under-21 tournament in Porirua and had two weeks off before leading Waitakere West to the under-19 title in Dunedin, downing North Harbour 90-89 in the final. He was also named in the tournament team.

Add thrice-weekly morning training sessions with the Breakers, school practise with Rosmini, rep practise and Year 13 NCEA study to the mix and life in the big smoke so far for Raukawa has consisted mainly of the four walls of the gym and the classroom.

"There hasn't been a lot of spare time so far because I seem to be juggling a lot but the opportunity is up here and so far I'm not regretting the decision to move.

"I'm learning to push myself more, with basketball and schoolwork, plus my uncle gives me a nudge whenever I need it."