Teen basketballers chosen for United States trip
A trip to Las Vegas next month was a slam-dunk for two Lower Hutt teenagers after being named in the New Zealand Basketball Academy recently.
Hutt Valley High School students Dion Yee and Mitchell Stephen were excited to hear they are part of the team making the two-week trip to the United States.
Point guard Dion, 14, has played age group representatives for Wellington since primary school and was part of the New Zealand Koru team to tour Australia earlier this year.
Big forward Mitchell, 15, stands at nearly two metres and is the youngest member of the Hutt Valley High School Senior A team.
He has played representative basketball for Hutt Valley since he was 11.
The trip to Las Vegas will be Mitchell's first time overseas.
"I'm pretty excited - I've been on a plane before but this will be my first time out of New Zealand."
Both boys said they want to achieve higher honours in basketball, Mitchell especially.
"I want to follow the footsteps of my brother who just made the NBL team, the Manawatu Jets."
Men's basketball academy head programme coach Zico Cornel said the whole package was required from those wanting to make the academy.
"The motto for New Zealand basketball academy is bringing excellence in basketball and education.
"We're not talking about a kid who just plays and comes to school and eats their lunch."
He said selection criteria required good performances at basketball camps and academic success.
"We're looking for people who we believe have a potential to go further so it's not necessarily if someone is good now.
"It's more this person has the capacity to go on."
Cornel said many New Zealand kids aspired to play college ball overseas.
The Las Vegas tour offered Dion and Mitchell an experience of the international standard required and provided early exposure to the scene, he said.
"For the kids that are really, really good that experience in the States potentially leads to further honours.
"The resources [in the US] are incredible, the opportunities are incredible, the values of the scholarships are massive so it's a pretty good pathway to pursue."
Cornel said despite their youth, the boys both had the potential to head down that pathway if they wanted.
"Dion's quick and handles the ball really well; he has the capacity to be a good pressure defender.
"Mitchell, he's pretty athletic. . . the players he will come up against in the States will be a challenge for him.
"He shoots and handles the ball reasonably well and he's pretty good with concepts."
The $4000 cost of the 10-day tour was funded from Dion and Mitchell's own pockets, with support from their family and personal fundraising.
- Hutt News