Black singlet the ultimate for St John's pair
Ask anyone who has had the privilege and they'll tell you there is nothing like the thrill of representing your country, and it's no different for Hamilton basketballers Jayden Bezzant and Hamish Sheridan.
The St John's College students were named in the New Zealand under-18 team to play in the Australian State Championships back in April and their fifth-place finish did not dampen their memorable experience.
"It's cool, I don't know how to explain it," Bezzant said about playing for his country. "It's just having the New Zealand [name] on your chest and just representing it is cool."
For 16-year-old Sheridan, however, wearing the black singlet was a significant moment after he was called up late to the side. He said playing for New Zealand was an opportunity to represent all the people who had helped him get to this point and "making them proud".
A player equally skilled at both guard positions, Bezzant, 17, said basketball was something he had grown up with.
"I come from a basketball family so I've been playing since a young age and all the way up till now. Basketball has always been a part of my life," he said.
Things were a little different for the towering forward/centre Sheridan, who only took up the sport when he started secondary school after he felt he had become too tall for rugby.
"I started in year 9. I used to play rugby but I got a bit too tall for it. But I injured myself in year 9 so I didn't really start till year 10 and I've loved [basketball] ever since," he said.
While Bezzant and Sheridan have varying reasons as to why they enjoy basketball, both agree they share a passion for the game.
Bezzant has a desire to go as far as he can within the sport and that motivates the year 13 student in the hope he will get to square off against the best competition.
"I just always try to get better because there are always going to be better players and you always want to play against better competition, so I just keep playing and playing until you've reached your peak," Bezzant said.
Sheridan hopes he can be just as good academically as he is on the court and aspires to gain a scholarship, possibly in the United States, to play basketball and continue his education.
In the meantime, Bezzant and Sheridan will be in action for their school team and together again for Waikato as they prepare for the under-19 national championships in Nelson next month.
However, the secondary school nationals remains the big target for the duo and they'll be aiming to help guide the St John's team to their first national title since 1996.
The pair believe they have the makings of a solid team able to make a good run this year, with team-mates Nikau McCullough and Doven Barlow also New Zealand age-grade representatives.