Basketball is on track to become New Zealand's most popular secondary school sport by 2020 and Rotorua Boys' High School players now have a new outdoor court to develop their skills.
At the official opening of the court, which the school received funding from One Foundation to build, yesterday, principal Chris Grinter said the it was another facility that would help the school meet the needs of its students.
He said in 2015 the school had one junior basketball team and one senior team, with the total number of players sitting in the 20s. Three years later, the school has about 60 junior players and about 50 seniors, as well as a fulltime director of basketball, an assistant director and a team of six coaches.
"Next year we predict we'll have a player base of close to 150. Basketball in this school has paralleled the growth of basketball in New Zealand, it has blossomed. We've gone from two teams to 14 or 15 teams.
"It was my privilege to watch our senior basketball players play in the recent zone tournament. Highly professional, fast, dynamic, exciting basketball and we wish that team, by virtue of finishing third, the very best for nationals in the first week of the October holidays."
Basketball New Zealand High performance general manager Leonard King also spoke at the opening, saying the outdoor court reminded him of those he grew up playing on in America.
"I can assure you, where I come from in America, this is where we learned to play basketball, on outdoor courts. It taught me a lot of lessons, playing outside in America.
"I used to go and play with my brothers every day after school and get in line, waiting for our turn to play. The first five in the line would be the next five to play, every game was to seven points and the winner stayed on the court. The losers had to go to the back of the line. It teachers you how to be competitive, be disciplined and work in a team.
"This school has invested in basketball and as you can see, when you invest in something, you plant the roots, it grows. Now you're seeing some of the fruits of that labour with the team qualifying for the national championships."
King had also noticed the increase in popularity basketball was experiencing among New Zealand secondary school students.
"When I first moved to New Zealand, in 1991, I used to drive through the streets of Dunedin and I would always see young boys walking to school with rugby balls in their hands. I spent the last 15 years in Australia, but recently returned and I'm happy to say now, when I see boys walking to school, a lot of them are dribbling basketballs.
"Basketball is certainly blossoming in this country and I'm really excited to be a part of that."
Rotorua Boys' Senior A captain Thomas Kepu said the new court was "really exciting".
"This is my third year here and we're used to playing out on the other court we have - you end up waiting in line for ages, like Leonard King said, so it's really exciting to see how this is going to help us and the school grow."
He said the team was looking forward to nationals.
"It's the first time in a while that we've qualified for nationals. We're a new group this year, so it's nice to see we can achieve what we've set out to do from the start of the season.
"We need to stay in the same sort of mindset that we've had all season, do what we're used to doing and not go away from it."