Basketball Academy sets the standard - Feature

Statistics show that basketball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country.

The Paul Henare and Paora Winitana Basketball Academy based in Hawke's Bay, is about building a champion mind-set both on and off the court.

14-year-old Jershon Tatana and his older brother Preston aged 17, are just two of 40 players that turn up to training week in and week out on their quest to be the best basketball players they can be.

Tatana says, “I'm passionate about basketball because I love the running, passing the ball, it's just the best sport.”

The brothers are under the tutelage of experienced and passionate coaches, all former players at a national and world class level, but the academy is about more than just basketball.

Paora Winitana (Snr) says, “Becoming professional basketballers is not the main focus, they have the whole world at their fingertips so we must nurture them to be great adults.  If they become great basketball players, then that's awesome too.”

High standards of behaviour are expected, as the academy look to mould the complete athlete, role models both on and off the court.

The Hawke's Bay kids are set to fly to America and compete in the Utah Athletic Amateur Union Thanksgiving competition, which could open up some huge opportunities.

They will be competing in a tournament with teams from different parts of America, where they will be the only NZ team competing.

While they are in America, they want to perform the haka as their way of educating Americans about the haka.

They recently issued their very own haka challenge to American TV icon Ellen DeGeneres, being promoted with the hashtag #EllenHakaChallenge.

Whether they make it onto Ellen or not, this next generation are raising the bar as they strive for excellence.