Grace Vaofusi, the latest in an ever growing list of Kiwis heading into the US college system, will be welcomed by some familiar faces when she heads to the University of Northern Colorado Bears in 2018.

The Bears play in the NCAA Division 1 Big Sky Conference and already boast Tall Ferns Krystal Leger Walker and Junior Tall Fern Tirana Clarke on their roster.

Vaofusi has gained a full four year basketball scholarship and has no doubts Northern Colorado will be a good fit for her.

"The calibre of the coaches at NCU is amazing. They came to visit my parents and I last year before Nationals and then also again this year. We formed a great relationship over the year and that made all the difference."

The Hutt Valley standout will major in Art and Art Design and the combination of academic and basketball facilities played a large part in her decision to join The Bears.

"When I visited the campus they gave us a tour of the gym, the locker room, all the other training facilities, the awesome Art facilities and most of the campus.

"I loved everything about the school. There is nothing in NZ to compare it to, everything is so much bigger in the States."

Freshman athletes tend to live on campus in their first year and this will also be the case for Vaofusi.

"I will be living on campus in the dormitories. My roommate will be Michaela Jones from Wymore, Nebraska who is also a freshman."

The 18 year old, from a passionate basketball family, has spent much of her life on or around a basketball court.

"My family love basketball so by default I was always at tournaments and games. Watching all of my older cousins play and travel the world was what got me into basketball. I love that basketball is a diverse sport. You don't play just offence or defence, you have to be a well-rounded player and play both ends of the court. There's more than one way to contribute to the game. If you can't seem to score then you can contribute on defence or through assists and rebounds. If one thing isn't working there is always something else you can do to help the team."

That attitude of playing hard at both ends of the court is something that helped her catch the eye of the NCU coaching staff.

Head Coach Kami Ethridge explained the attributes that the 59 guard would add to her team next year.

"Grace is the third New Zealand player we have signed in the past three years and I believe she is a strong combination of the other two Kiwis (Leger-Walker and Clarke) we have in our programme. She is a strong, athletic guard who can stretch the defence as well as score off the dribble.

"Grace is a dynamic player who can play four positions for us. Her athleticism mixed with her perimeter skills make her a very versatile guard who will affect the game on both ends of the floor. I expect Grace to walk into our programme and compete for major minutes."

Another person that expects Vaofusi to blossom in the NCU environment is Brian Yee, her coach at Hutt Valley High School.

"Grace is a very athletic player, who has a huge vertical leap and an amazing euro step. She has been one of the top scorers on the team and has led the team in shots blocked. Grace has captained the senior team in the last two years and has been a positive role model for her teammates.

"From a very passionate basketball family Grace is very knowledgeable about the game and loves to talk ball. Playing US college basketball has always been Graces dream and she has worked hard and applied herself to get there. She will relish the challenge and I think she will do great in the outstanding UNC programme."

Vaofusi is keen to maximize her opportunities at UNC. "I want to get a degree and gain as much basketball experience and knowledge from the coaches. It is a huge privilege to learn from women with college, Olympic and WNBA experience. I want to learn as much as I can and share my knowledge with the next lot of ballers coming through in NZ."

Vaofusis fondest basketball memory is playing for the New Zealand team at the 2015 FIBA Oceania Under 16 Championships - a tournament where she played alongside future UNC teammate Tiarna Clarke.

"It was an honour to represent New Zealand at that tournament", said Vaofusi, who has set herself realistic goals for the future.

"Playing for the Tall Ferns would be an honour, but I have a fair bit of work to do to get to that level. My goal was always to gain a basketball scholarship and major in Art so that I could combine my two passions."

The Vaofusi family initially formed a checklist of what was required to help her quest for a college basketball scholarship.

"First we had to get as much game footage together and Dad made a few highlight videos. That took a lot of time. We registered with CCR and we also did our own research into different colleges. I sent out a lot of emails with my own profile to colleges directly. Keeping in contact with all the coaches was a big part of the process," said Grace.

Grace has many people to thank for assisting her on her basketball journey to date.

"My parents Tony and Irene, my family, my Hutt Valley High School and Rep coaches and the New Zealand Basketball Academy (NZBA). Without their support I would not be the player and person I am today."

That player and person she is today certainly appears to have a bright future.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand