Watch out Steven Adams, Rotorua has another basketball star on the rise.

Ruaumoko Pukepuke has been selected in the New Zealand Special Olympics basketball team to play at the World Special Olympic Games in Abu Dhabi next year.

The 22-year-old was nominated for the team by Special Olympics Rotorua and his mother Lorraine Pukepuke said Ruaumoko was "absolutely speechless" to find out he had been selected.

Read more: Successful trip to China for Rotorua basketball duo

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"I had to explain to him what it really involves - where Abu Dhabi is and having to go on a plane, but he was very excited and speechless. It's how he rolls with anything, he's just big eyes, facials and of course he said 'yes!'," She said.

Lorraine said Ruaumoko had put a lot of hard work in to get to this point, but beyond all just loved playing basketball.

"Our Special Olympics athletes know that what you see is what you get. They know that fitness and training is really important. He loves practising his shots and he knows that's the most important part of the game. He's also started running for fitness."

The New Zealand team have their first training camp in Palmerston North in July, where Ruaumoko will get to meet the rest of the players. The tournament itself is in March next year.

"[Being selected] puts him in a category where he's never fitted in the mainstream, he's had talent in basketball but not picked up or seen. He's in an inclusive environment, in a sports team that he can succeed and that he can see he belongs to.

"It will help him improve too, having new coaches, responding and reacting to them will be really cool and good for his confidence.

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Ruaumoko Pukepuke, pictured at his old school, Owhata Primary, has been selected in the New Zealand Special Olympics basketball team. Photo / Ben Fraser
Ruaumoko Pukepuke, pictured at his old school, Owhata Primary, has been selected in the New Zealand Special Olympics basketball team. Photo / Ben Fraser

Special Olympics Rotorua secretary Jess Gibbs said it was "huge" for the organisation to have someone selected for the world games.

"All the athletes train pretty hard to achieve the best they can, so it's nice to see there's somewhere that they can go and their hard work will be recognised.

"We haven't sent anyone to the games for a fair few years now, so it's nice one of these athletes we nominated was selected. We're waiting to hear back about one other athlete as well," Gibbs said.

She said Pukepuke put in a lot of training to get to the point he is at now.

"As well as basketball, he goes to our swimming training and we took a heap of athletes to be part of the 5.5km and 10km walks at the Rotorua Marathon - he did that as well.

"He's a very caring person, he's nice to all the athletes. He's nice to everyone, whether they are from Special Olympics or not. I think he'll do really well, he's very talented."

Ruaumoko was also part of the Rotorua team who enjoyed their most successful appearance Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games in December. He played in the silver medal winning basketball team.

Forty-one of the 45 Special Olympics Rotorua athletes competing won at least one medal at the games. In total the group won 57 medals between them.

Special Olympics Rotorua runs basketball on Monday nights, football on Tuesday nights, indoor bowls on Wednesday nights, swimming on Monday and Thursday nights and ten pin bowling on Saturday mornings. Anyone interested in getting involved can call Gibbs on 027 344 4327.