Canterbury Rams guard Marcus Alipate chasing a different kind of dream

Canterbury Rams guard Marcus Alipate.

Canterbury Rams guard Marcus Alipate.

Most people with a former NFL player for a father would want nothing more than to follow in their dad's footsteps, but not Canterbury Rams guard Marcus Alipate. 

The 24-year-old American is eight games into his second season with the Rams, and is one of the deadliest three-point shooters in the National Basketball League (NBL).

However, things would be vastly different had he stuck with American football - his "best sport" at high school - and attempted to follow his father into the NFL. 

Rams guard Marcus Alipate in action against the Supercity Rangers in Christchurch last month.

Rams guard Marcus Alipate in action against the Supercity Rangers in Christchurch last month.

Tongan-born linebacker Tuineau Alipate, now 49, played for the New York Jets, Los Angeles Raiders and Minnesota Vikings between 1993-1996, and previously played in the Canadian Football League. 

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"Obviously my dad played and everything, but I wanted to go a different route and play something different," Alipate said. "Basketball was always something I loved doing.

Canterbury Rams guard Marcus Alipate, right, chose basketball over American football after high school.

Canterbury Rams guard Marcus Alipate, right, chose basketball over American football after high school.

"Football was always in my blood and something I was pretty good at, but I just always loved basketball and felt like I was a basketball player who played football, not the other way around."

Despite being smaller than the rest of his family, including mother Lisa, Alipate (1.83m), who has one older and four younger siblings, played cornerback, wide receiver and "a bit of quarterback" at Bloomingston Jefferson High School.

But while brothers Mikias and Moses went on to play college football at South Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota respectively, Alipate went to the University of St Thomas in Minneapolis for basketball.

After scoring the second most (1270 points) in high school history, he notched more than 1000 college points and was named the team's most valuable player in 2015. 

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Now, he's doing something he never thought was possible growing up - living in a country on the other side of the world and playing basketball.

"It's pretty cool to be able to tell people you play basketball in New Zealand because it's just that place that people are like, 'Wow, it's amazing out there,'. People are real interested."

Alipate, who is gunning for an ANBL contract, is averaging 11.6 points per game for the 4-4 Rams so far this season, and has been typically deadly from three-point range. 

He led the league (41 per cent) from beyond the arc last season, and has knocked down 46.2 per cent (24/52) of his attempts this year - the third best in the league.

Alipate has led the category for much of this season, but only landed two of his 10 attempts in last Monday's 102-79 loss to the Wellington Saints. Meanwhile, Wellington's Leon Henry exploded to drain 10 of his 14 bombs. 

"Oh did he? Dang. I got to get it back, I just can't miss one next game," Alipate said when he was told Henry (54.3 per cent) had surpassed him. 

As deadly as Alipate is from range with his crisp jump shot, Rams coach Mark Dickel has been searching for ways to get him more involved.

"It's funny, because growing up in college I wasn't just a three-point shooter. It just happened being out here and the way I shot the ball they wanted me to shoot every time I was on the three-point line.

"But I'm also pretty good at coming off screens, getting other guys involved and also going to the rim and shooting floaters, things like that. That's pretty much been my game most of my life."

Three of the Rams' four losses were against the 8-0 Saints, whose dominance might have some people thinking they're in a one-horse race all the way to the title. 

However, ahead of Friday night's game against the 1-6 Nelson Giants in Christchurch, Alipate said that wasn't the case.

"I definitely think they can be beaten," he said. "I think every team can be beaten. I just think we need to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season. For us, it's a humbling experience to be in the situation we're in."

In addition to his dad being a former NFL player, Alipate's second cousin, ʻAhoʻeitu Tupou VI, is Tonga's King, while cousin Rey Maualuga played linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL the past eight years. 

Canterbury Rams v Nelson Giants
When: Friday, 7pm
Where: Cowles Stadium, Christchurch




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