Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams has spent time with the community in Palmerston North and opened a new basketball court this morning.
The Oklahoma City Thunder big man was treated with a warm welcome by the enthusiastic Awapuni community who gathered at the new Raleigh St Reserve basketball court.
He was ushered in with a powhiri and haka by the Ngā Iti Rearea group from the Maori medium class of Monrad Intermediate School Awapuni. The group led by their assistant principal Lewis Karaitiana, also performed a waiata.
Addressing the community, Adams thanked them for their team work and steadfastness in making the project a reality.
"I thank the community for giving me the opportunity to do this for the kids."
While in Palmerston North, Adams will host 40 top high school players for two-day high-performance camps with some of New Zealand's top coaches and mentors, culminating in a boys and girls game.
Adams said he had considered hosting something similar for a few years, and saw a need to help the next generation capitalise on their talent.
The opening of the new basketball court in Palmerston North was officially marked by the cutting of cake, which Adams invited his friend and a key partner in the project, Michael George, to do for him while he watched.
The transformation of the Raleigh St Reserve started when George's wife, Daryl-Anne, and Kim Stewart approached Palmerston North City Council in 2017 with the proposal for a recreational facility for children of the community. Awapuni Rotary Club later joined with other stakeholders and the community to raise nearly $200,000 for the new court.
"We grew up here and have been trying to get a better park for our children, so Kim and I had our first meeting with the city council in July 2017 and now we are here celebrating the result," said Daryl-Anne George.
"Now our kids have a sense of ownership and we are happy they have a safe and beautiful environment to play."
According to her, Jah Smith, Michael George and others worked with "Askew One" to design the court and put a unique design at the centre of the court's painting, which symbolises togetherness and unity.
Palmerston North City Council's Grant Smith expressed joy at the event and thanked everyone who contributed to the realisation of the project.
"It is huge, the kind of inspiration Steven Adams can bring among our young people.
"When this community lost their houses in the past it actually hurt the people, but now it's really refreshing that they are bouncing back.
"I look forward to when basketball Manawatu will be playing on this court."