Thompson scores NZ spot

Craighead basketballer Toni Thompson is excited and nervous after being picked for the New Zealand under-20 team.

Thompson, who has just turned 17, will head to Tasmania with the 10-strong squad to compete in the elite Australian State Championships this month.

First, she will travel to a camp in Auckland to meet her team-mates before heading to Launceston, with the tournament running from February 17 to 24.

The 1.77m point guard said it would be a big learning curve.

"It will be really tough but it is great to get the opportunity."

Thompson has played basketball since she was about 10 and her family has some pedigree in the sport, with her father, Barry, a former Seahorse.

There will be one familiar face, however, with South Canterbury Basketball development officer Sean Fuller coaching the team.

Fuller, who last year took the Tall Ferns under-19 women's team, gets another opportunity to enhance his coaching credentials.

"Most of the under-19 team are now on scholarships in the United States, so it just gives another group of players an opportunity."

The coach said the under-20 side was a mix of youth and experience and Thompson certainly deserved her place.

"She's pretty gutsy and plays pretty hard."

He said Thompson could shoot really well and had very good fundamentals.

The talented young basketballer also played for the South Island in Port Macquarie in New South Wales in 2010. The squad includes one Brisbane-based Kiwi and a couple of younger players.

Fuller said the competition would be tough, with some Australian states having National Basketball League players in their ranks.

"I think everyone involved will benefit from the experience."

Fuller said all those travelling had to pay their own way.

Thompson said she would be keen on gaining an American basketball scholarship but was just focused on playing well for the New Zealand team.

The Timaru Herald