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Stateside trip for b’ballers

So, what was the best bit of a three-week trip to America for nine basketball-mad boys?

The Nasa Space Station visit? Sightseeing in Hollywood, Rodeo Drive and Venice Beach? Checking out a ranch? They were all great, said Flaxmere team member Tama Heather (13), but the very best bit was hanging out with famous Kiwi basketballer Steve Adams.

The Oklahoma City Thunder professional basketballer, born and bred in Rotorua, scored the youngsters front row seats at his Oklahoma City Thunder versus Miami game, and then hung out with them at their motel. They had on hand their delivery of his special requests: chocolate peanut slabs and snake lollies.

📷Swish Basketball Academy manager Suzie Brown said Adams was “super kind to the boys; it made us proud to be Kiwi”. The dream trip grew out of a desire for different opportunities for Swish players, with the States the big dream, said Suzie. The decision made to take an under-15 team, the boys got on with fundraising. “It showed the boys the true meaning of ‘do the work; get the treats’.”

And work they did: Running sausage sizzles, sports competitions, raffles, movie nights, a hangi, acting as traffic wardens and ticketers at events, and working for local businesses. They raised $30,000 in a year. Sponsorship from local businesses and an overseas sponsor topped up the rest.

The trip was not about playing basketball in every city or being seen by talent spotters, it was about giving the boys “great experiences and opportunities”.

They did, of course, play basketball, two games in a mini tournament in Piedmont and two games at Booker T Washington High School. Tough games, said Tama. “They play much quicker that we’re used to.”

Watching a whole lot of live professional basketball was brilliant for the youngsters, said Tama’s mum Marley Te Ahuru, who was one of the supervising adults on the trip.

“That was pretty cool,” said Tama. “It’s really different seeing it live, from seeing it on TV.”

So, where to next? Chicago 2021. “Why? Cause we know we can!”


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