More youth opting for Basketball over Rugby

By Ripeka Timutimu

A Waikato basketball coach says the success of Kiwi basketball sensation Stephen Adams in the NBA, has contributed to more young boys picking the sport over rugby. The National U15's Basketball tournament kicked off today, seeing the very best players from around the country battle it out under the hoops in Wellington.

This the future of NZ Basketball, a future Mason Lepou says is brighter because of Steven Adams.

“The Breakers, NZ Basketball the Tall Blacks, they compete well of course and Steven Adams it becomes a legitimate choice and more people are turning to the game.”

Lepou is the coach of the Waikato U15's boys A team, leading talent like 14-year old Te Arawa player Kemu Allen.

Kemu says, “My goals for basketball is to play my hardest and make the NZ team, who are some of your idols? Steven Adams, he made the NBA so yeah he's a New Zealander so I've got to idolise him.”

Lepou says Kemu is part of growing trend which is seeing young men give up rugby to follow their dreams of shooting hoops.

“Back in rugby I used to play a lot but I started getting too many head injuries so my Dad pulled me out and then I started playing basketball because of my height,” says Kemu.

Waikato A's took on their B team in the first game of the tournament and it'll only get harder as the tournament rolls on.

Fellow teammate Caleb Smiler says, “Our goal as a team was to come to Nats and we've done that and now it’s to make the top eight.”

This is where Steven Adams learnt his trade, and he has certainly left big shoes to fill for these youngsters to fulfil their dreams.