Yanni Wetzell is not a name familiar to many other than the true aficionado's in the New Zealand basketball community, or perhaps those in Auckland, let alone the wider sporting community. He may in fact be better known for his feats in junior tennis rather than his more recent efforts in the sport of basketball.
But the 20 year old from Auckland's North Shore with German, Samoan and New Zealand heritage, is looking to change that as he impresses coaches and onlookers with his athletic ability and raw talent while on tour with the New Zealand Select team in China.
Wetzell really only started taking basketball seriously in his final year of high school but in those three years he has made rapid improvement, including spending one season in the Breakers Academy working with Judd Flavell. About to start his second year of a scholarship at St Mary's University (San Antonio) in the States, Wetzell is fully committed to basketball having turned his back on a promising tennis career to pursue his hoop dreams.
Standing at 6'10" and with an athleticism that helped him to a top 1500 international and top 16 national junior tennis ranking, Wetzell is a raw talent that can expect to improve tremendously over the next few years as he catches up on the basketball knowledge and skills that others have honed since primary school days.
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New Zealand Select Head Coach Pero Cameron says Wetzell has the potential to go a long way in the game and likens him to Jack Salt at a similar stage of his development.
"I didn't know much about Yanni - in fact there are a number of players on this tour I am seeing for the first time, and it's exciting to see that new talent. He has some real ability and a confidence when taking the ball to the hoop, his impact against Montenegro was great when he came on, with energy and some great plays at the basket.
"Where he will make the most gains in the next few years is on defence, learning to be tough and strong in the right areas. That and his decision making, knowing when and where to move so that it becomes instinctive, but that will come given how late he was in turning his focus to the game.
"It is exciting though, he is another name to add to the talent pool in that next generation of players coming through, there are some great signs for the men's game for sure."
The former Westlake Boys High student is enjoying the chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Cameron and the New Zealand Select coaching team, and players the likes of Tall Blacks BJ Anthony and Jordan Ngatai, as he tries to learn as much as he can during the tour.
"This is a dream come true for me, I have always wanted to play for my country and to win a national title, both are been big goals for me. I see this as a great stepping stone with the Select team, to learn and improve, go back to St Mary's and have a strong season and one day to play for the Tall Blacks."