Two Palmerston North women's basketball careers will be taking a giant step forward as the players head to Gillette College in the United States next week.
Freya Newton, 19, and Alicia McEwen, 18, have won one-year scholarships at the junior college in Gillette, Wyoming, with the university paying for everything except their flights.
Both were looking at colleges in the States before they linked up with Gillette's coach, Will Rider, who enticed them over.
"I was emailing a couple of coaches over in South Dakota and the coaches really wanted me but couldn't put me in their roster," Newton said.
She was then put onto Rider at Gillette College, who play in division one of the national junior college athletics association.
"A couple of the girls have been over to other junior colleges, a couple of mates in the Hutt Valley.
"From what I hear the standard's pretty good.
"The basketball's a lot different to what it's like in Palmerston North and it will be good to get out and get away from New Zealand."
A former New Zealand under-18 and under-20 representative, Newton said it would make a massive difference having someone she knew with her.
The two former Freyberg High School students, who leave on Wednesday, were probably going to be room-mates and Newton was looking forward to getting over there.
"We were looking for wherever would pay for it.
"That's a massive part of it . . . the look of Wyoming all seemed to fit in right and the coach, he made me feel really welcome."
Newton's main focus is on schooling.
However, the basketball is still an important part of the trip with the team training twice a day until the season starts.
McEwen had been looking at going to a college in North Dakota but that didn't work out so she sent Rider her CV and a video of her playing which must have impressed him.
She had spent the past few days trying to sort out her visa and didn't know what to expect basketball-wise but was "pretty stoked" about heading over there.
"It will be ideal [we'll] learn heaps over there, get way better, way fitter, stronger, everything.
"It's going to be huge for us."
McEwen has also represented New Zealand at under-18 and under-20 level as well as being part of the under-17 emerging junior Tall Ferns.
- Manawatu Standard
Does more need to be done to protect NZ passports?