Chauncey's life on line for chance of a lifetime

HEPI'S HOPE: Chauncey Hepi, 12, has a chance to represent New Zealand at an international basketball competition next
HEPI'S HOPE: Chauncey Hepi, 12, has a chance to represent New Zealand at an international basketball competition next

All Chauncey Hepi wants for Christmas is the chance to play ball and he's willing to risk his life to make that happen.

The 12-year-old is set to play in an under-14 basketball development team in New South Wales next month, provided his family can pull together the $3000 needed to get him there.

It is an opportunity his family thought the Hawera boy would never have.

Born with several congenital heart defects, Chauncey has a severely dilated aorta.

Any chest injury could cause a life-threatening aneurism.

His mother, Hine Niwa said his heart condition is so severe that this selection shouldn't be possible.

"You wouldn't even think he had a heart condition, looking at him," she said.

Standing at 1.8m tall, Chauncey wears a specially developed chest protection vest to minimise impact.

His medical team are currently going through processes to triple check that his body will withstand the competition.

Ms Niwa said it was probably the only competition of that level in which her son would be able to compete.

"This could be his only chance, depending on his aorta sizing next year he may not be able to get another chance," she said.

"Given his heart condition we've always been skeptical of taking him on a plane, going to nationals was his first time".

Travelling on a plane isn't a worry anymore, but impact to the chest is.

There is an operation that can help Chauncey but it's not recommended until his aorta reaches 5cm dilated.

At this stage, it is 4.1cm.

"They're thinking that a lot of high-impact exercise could enlarge it," she said.

But Chauncey is determined not to let a mere heart condition get in the way of his plans to become an NBA player.

"He's been doing a lot of training with nationals, even with local basketball he had four trainings a week," Ms Niwa said.

"They thought that was just impossible but he did it and he was fine".

Basketball Taranaki secretary Bex Langton said Chauncey was a gentle giant until he set foot on the court.

"He's a quiet boy but when he goes on the court, he's got this natural aggression and you need to have that to go anywhere in sport."

Provided his heart condition didn't stymie Chauncey's career, Langton expected him to go far in the sport.

The 12-day basketball tour starts on January 8, anyone wanting to donate towards Chauncey's trip can contact his mother Hine Niwa 027 404 4955.

Taranaki Daily News