Gone are the days when hoodie-clad types — confined to basements where they furiously code their way in programming and running servers in computer science — can exclusively lay claim to belonging to the colony of nerds.
It seems, if you ask Aliyah King, geeks have become rampant on the polished floors of basketball courts, too.
"I've been told lots of times that basketball is a game for nerds so it's like knowing how to take all the shots, reading the play and knowing all the options you have of a certain play," says a grinning King before catching a flight with fellow talented Hawke's Bay basketballers Melika Samia and Raedeen Blake for a three-day October national age-group camp at Bruce Pullman Arena, Auckland, this morning. No doubt the sense of pride in making it to the cull of 24 is immense for the trio, especially King who got to the 80 muster at an under-14 camp in Rotorua early last year but had missed the cut.
The 16-year-old small forward, akin to Samia who has already got her stripes in the U15 national team, is a member of the Morgan Maskell-coached Napier Girls' High School first team.
"Aliyah is a rapid improver who has all the skill and smarts tactically and technically to succeed as a basketball player. She has the physical gifts as well, and when she grows into her body I believe she will become a force to be reckoned with on the court," Maskell says.
But the trio's flirtation with higher honours has come with sacrifices and commitment.
"I've had lots and lots of trainings and off-court sessions like not only working on my skills sets in basketball but my knowledge of the game," explains year 9 pupil King who made the Bay age-group grades since attending St Patrick's School.
Elder sister Madison, now 23, was into the three-quarter shorts and singlet brigade but King emphasises her inspiration came from primary school coach Michelle Start who had introduced her to the code in year 6.
The teenager, who hopes to pursue tertiary education in social sciences and politics in the United States or Europe on scholarship, isn't setting lofty goals this long weekend.
"I definitely want to go into it knowing I've put in the effort but also to know not to expect anything from it but to learn a lot."
She is indebted to parents Joanne and Michael King as her "taxi drivers" as well as mentors Start, Maskell, Clifton Bush and strength and conditioning coach Chris Stretcher.
"I've been told I'm a bit like a baby giraffe — tall but not very strong — so Chris has helped me with my core and strength which have helped me a lot," says King who stands at 1.74m.
For Samia, it's pleasing to know there's continuity at national level with solid work ethics and, hopefully, retain a spot this year.
"I just want to go hard because at some of the previous camps I have maybe held back a little bit so this time I can show them what I can really do," says the 16-year-old point/shooting guard.
Last year Samia had represented the U15s at the Fiba Oceania Championship in Papua New Guinea where she led the team in minutes, three-point shooting and was among the top three in her team in points, rebounds, assists, free-throw shooting and blocks.
Her call up comes on the platform of averaging 36 points a game at the U17 nationals.
"Melika is no doubt one of the most talented high school players in the nation regardless of age due to her combination of skill, size, athleticism, work ethic and tactical knowledge," says Maskell.
Samia says competing in the Elite HB Club League had enabled schoolgirls to gauge their worth against physically imposing opponents.
The Year 11 pupil believes her experience will be invaluable to lift herself to the intensity required, especially what she has gleaned against overseas oppositions.
She echoes King's sentiments in saluting her parents, Kathryn and Alani Samia, for their undying support and input from Maskell and Bush.
"If it hadn't been for them I wouldn't be here so shout out to them."
Maskell rates Blake, revealing she's been consistently one of the best in the province.
"Raedeen has been a standout for a while now, so her selection comes as no surprise to me," he says.
Last year Blake represented NZ U14s in Melbourne, Australia, where she was named in the U15 national tournament team after guiding Bay U15 girls to a top-four finish. She was the third leading scorer in the HB women's elite league.
"It'll be really cool to see some of the other girls," says the 14-year-old point guard who played for the Bridge Pa women's team.
She is under the tutelage of HGHS coach Dustin Sadler and Bay age-group mentor Graham Takie.
The former Peterhead School pupil expects the camp to be a great leveller but hopes to have her shooting radar on and to show some determination when driving through the lanes.
"I hope to do everything to the best of my abilities," she says.
Blake's love for basketball stems from Peterhead School where she relished shooting hoops with mates.
However, mum Laurae Blake is a key influence in her progress.
The age-group aspirants this weekend have the 2020 Fiba Oceania U15 Championship in sight where the top two qualifiers will book a passage to 2021 Fiba Asia U16 Championship.
The U17s are gunning the 2019 Fiba Asia Championship where the top four qualifiers will progress to the U17 worlds.