The Paul Henare and Paora Winitana Hawke's Bay Basketball Academy closing its doors late last year has prompted a scramble from numerous prospects trying to offer similar services in the province.

"I think there's definitely been an opportunity seen by different people and organisations," says Basketball Hawke's Bay general manager Chris McIvor.

However, McIvor says that's a normal reaction in the contemporary sporting environment because it's an industry where job opportunities are up for grab.

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On the flip side, he says such enterprising moves ensure the gospel, according to basketball, reaches pockets of the community the parent amateur body is unable to access.

"As an organisation, Basketball Hawke's Bay, or any other governing body, we can't reach every kid to give them what they want because we just don't have the resources," says the 41-year-old who has been at the helm for 14 months.

Basketball HB helps pave two pathways — firstly in participation, which offers involvement with the sport for life and, secondly, to pursue a career from mini-ball to Tall Blacks.

Basketball HB has strategically aligned itself with two establishments that have emerged in the province.

Former Hawk Clifton Bush II has opened the doors to Cani, which stands for Constant and Never-ending Improving Basketball Academy, in Napier. Photo / file
Former Hawk Clifton Bush II has opened the doors to Cani, which stands for Constant and Never-ending Improving Basketball Academy, in Napier. Photo / file

In Hastings, current Taylor Corporation Hawks player Everard Bartlett runs the Horizons Basketball Academy and in Napier former Hawk Clifton Bush II has opened the doors to Cani, which stands for Constant and Never-ending Improving Basketball Academy.

"They've come in after the closure of the Paul Henare and Paora Winitana academy so we've sat down [to talk] with those two organisations," he says, emphasising the two academies are aligned with the regional body's programme.

McIvor reckons the key to such academies is to ensure they fit the bigger picture, especially pertaining to parents receiving the appropriate information and how it fits with potential player pathways.

"We have a very clear understanding of where they fit in the player pathway so it's not seen as competition and we're in the same tent looking at the bigger picture at how much stuff we're throwing at the kids."

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Sport New Zealand's initiative is to provide a happy balance so that youngsters stay with the code even after they embark into adulthood to make it a game for life.

"We need to be very careful about how many things we offer them and where they fit."

McIvor says basketball is growing so fast that the governing body doesn't have the resources to cater to everyone.

"While we've aligned with two groups people are able to make their own decisions on what's best for them."

If they're unsure, he encourages them to approach Basketball HB to ask for their expertise and guidance.

He doesn't feel the amateur body needs to establish its own academy because its' representative programme — which runs from under-15 to under-23s — fulfils that role. Ditto the U11 to U13 one below that.

"It's still very much about wearing the Hawke's Bay singlet so that's what we hang our hats on and we see these academies as stepping stones to hone their skills in a more intense environment."

Veteran Hawks guard Everard Bartlett is running the Horizons Basketball Academy in Hastings. Photo / file
Veteran Hawks guard Everard Bartlett is running the Horizons Basketball Academy in Hastings. Photo / file

McIvor agrees there's always a risk of fluctuating standards at different entry points but Basketball HB doesn't have a mandate to tell them what they can or can't do in private business.

"What we can do is to endorse certain programmes after building a clear pathway."

What is concerning is the infiltration of national academies — namely from Auckland and Wellington — that are undermining the structures of not just the provincial governing bodies but also the regional institutions.

"They come under national brands so that makes the water murky as well," says McIvor. "We're not linked to them and neither is Basketball New Zealand."

He says if youngsters want to aspire to represent their country from age-group level all the way to becoming Tall Blacks then their parents need to comprehend the importance of picking proper pathways.

"Yes, it's messy and I think there needs to be grunty talks along the lines at that level to try to curb any, I guess, risk around players falling out of love with the game."

McIvor says Basketball HB doesn't support interests in a general way but is available for consultation to help prospective parties reach suitable decisions regarding their children.

He says Basketball HB had been talking to the Henare/Winitana academy throughout last year with the Hawks franchise and academy's financial backers.

McIvor says his preoccupation is more with providing the leverage to lead the game in the right direction rather than the commercial side although they do rely on business funds.

"We do subsidise the game heavily because we have a big number of players from the lower socio-economic areas."

With so many opportunities for youngsters in sport, McIvor says basketball feels less is more.

"I'm a great believer that sport is a vehicle and if basketball is there to aid mental wellbeing and all those social issues then we'd be silly not to do that."

He says schools remain Basketball HB's biggest stake holders so the likes of former Tall Black Benny Hill offering voluntary clinics to Henry Hill School in Napier is godsend.

"We're fully supportive of school champions, that is, people who are in schools and running basketball so it's priceless, particularly if they're doing it voluntarily."

Chris McIvor at Whitmore Park, Napier, where Basketball HB is close to building its own four outdoor courts to address space issues. Photo / Warren Buckland
Chris McIvor at Whitmore Park, Napier, where Basketball HB is close to building its own four outdoor courts to address space issues. Photo / Warren Buckland

The paucity of court space remains an issue as Basketball HB liaise with Hastings District and Napier City councils.

"We're very close to building our own four outdoor courts in Maraenui on the old bowling greens there," he says of the now defunct Wairere Bowling Club site next to the Basketball HB headquarters in Nuffield Ave. "We have to be very creative in that space we've got."

Shrinking the size of courts is paramount and so is ensuring youngsters aren't playing too late into the night rather than allocating time for homework and going to bed.

"It's easy to hack the boot into the issues but we want to be there in the forefront to be helping."

McIvor says Basketball HB can play the waiting game or jump into the fray to help themselves so the latter is more appealing.