Basketball: Kiwis hoopsters flocking to US colleges

Kruz Perrott-Hunt in action for the Tall Blacks
Kruz Perrott-Hunt in action for the Tall Blacks. Photo credit: Photosport

More and more young Kiwis are heading to the United States to pursue their basketball dreams on scholarships. 

This year, more than 100 aspiring hoopsters will get to prove their worth on courts across the 50 states, dispersed among the hundreds of colleges playing in all sorts of leagues and tournaments. 

Of those, 42 will be lacing up for division one colleges - 22 women and 19 men - playing against some of the world's best young talent in the world. 

Here are just a few of our very own Kiwis playing Div. 1 this season for you to keep your eyes on.

Dan Fotu

Forward

St Mary's College, California.

You may know the last name well - Dan's brother, Isaac, is now a veteran leader of the Tall Blacks side and sister Ella is a current Tall Fern, who was named in the Asia Cup squad on Sunday. 

Dan is heading into his second season with St Mary's, after playing 34 games in his debut season with the side. He averaged 13 minutes in each outing, but expect to see those minutes go up this year, as he becomes more accustomed to the system and more suited to the team’s rotation. 

Fotu has also had time within the Tall Blacks environment, playing his first match in 2018 alongside his big brother. 

Dan Fotu in action for New Zealand
Dan Fotu in action for New Zealand. Photo credit: Photosport

St Mary's is a highly renowned basketball college, with Australian NBA stars Matthew Dellavedova and Patty Mills both attending, before making it to the league. 

Cantabrian Quinn Clinton is a teammate of Fotu's, also entering his second year.

Akiene-Tera Reed

Guard

Virginia Commonwealth University 

Reed is about to embark on her third season with the Virginia Rams, showcasing her skills and acting as one of the team's main sources of offence. She consistently scored in double figures in the 2018-19 season, with a high score of 24 points. 

Back in 2018, Reed was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team. Now 22, Reed left high school in New Zealand early to acclimate in New Jersey, before joining the division one college and that seems to have boosted her exposure and abilities on the court too. 

Akiene-Tera Reed in action against China
Akiene-Tera Reed in action against China. Photo credit: Photosport

Reed has been a member of the Tall Ferns in the past, with her mother also coaching at international level for New Zealand, as well as playing at the University of San Diego.

Kruz Perrott-Hunt

Guard

University of South Dakota

At just 17 years old, Perrott-Hunt has certainly made his name known within basketball circles here in New Zealand and across the world. 

He's been a member of the Junior Tall Blacks and even Paul Henare's senior side, and it's easy to see why. 

The Rosmini College old boy earned a spot on the Breakers team as a development player last year and was even named best defensive player at Nike’s Asia Camp in China, where some of the best young talent from across the globe showcase their skills. 

Besides his basketball schedule, Perrott-Hunt plans to complete a degree in psychology while at University and his presence within his side no doubt will be greatly felt.

Amiee Book

Forward

California State University, Fullerton

Nelson native Amiee Book may have had no choice, but to pursue a career in basketball, following in the footsteps of father, former NBL and Tall Blacks centre Ed Book.

She's heading into her second season with Cal State, after an award-winning freshman year, as the team's impact player off the bench. Book was named the Big West Sixth Player of the Year and was included into the Big West All-Freshman Team. 

Amiee Book at Tall Ferns training
Amiee Book at Tall Ferns training. Photo credit: Photosport

She averaged nine points a game, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field and recording 19 double doubles throughout the season. Her 43 percent shooting from the three-point arc was the third-best season in the programme's history. 

Like Perrott-Hunt, Book is also studying psychology. 

Sam Waardenburg

Forward

University of Miami

Embarking on his third season in Miami and playing at the highest level in a tough ACC Conference, 20-year Waardenburg is ready to continue making an impact for his side. 

His lead-up to college basketball was one filled with accolades - he was named Most Valuable Player at the NBA's 'Basketball Without Borders' camp in Melbourne in 2016. 

The big man went from averaging just 14 minutes in his freshman season with the Miami Hurricanes to playing 24 minutes per contest in his sophomore year, where he averaged five points and three rebounds. 

His leadership and experience within the team will be counted on by the coaching staff and management this year. Sam will get plenty of TV time in a tough conference for a major team, so make sure you keep an eye open for when his Hurricanes are playing.

Zara Jillings

Guard

Fordham University, New York

You may recognise Jillings from when she suited up for the Tall Ferns at the Commonwealth Games. 

She's now entering her third year for Fordham University, after two seasons as a reliable and efficient shooter, and role player. Originally from Auckland, where she attended Westlake Girls High School, Jillings made the move to 'The Big Apple' to not only further her basketball, but her academics too. 

She is coming off a career-best year, finishing with the team's second-best field goal percentage (47), while also racking up 50 assists over 34 games. She's yet to miss a game during her college career.

Zara Jillings in action for the Junior Tall Ferns
Zara Jillings in action for the Junior Tall Ferns. Photo credit: Photosport

She's also yet to miss a beat with her grades, after being added to the Atlantic 10 Commissioner's Honor Roll for her results. 

Sam Timmins

Forward

University of Washington

Entering his fourth and final year with the Washington Huskies, Timmins needs to prove his worth more than ever. 

He has become quite a staple within the rotation, but his production seemed to slip last season, with his minutes played and points scored at a career-low. Despite that, Timmins has been a pillar over his three-years, providing tenacious defence and solid rebounding. 

Sam Timmins in NBL action with Canterbury Rams
Sam Timmins in NBL action with Canterbury Rams. Photo credit: Photosport

Kendell Heremaia

Guard

Fordham University, New York 

Also at Fordham, alongside Zara Jillings, Heremaia is also yet to miss a game, as she enters her third year. 

Raised in Hamilton, Heremaia is a strong-rebounding guard, with her career high of 16 boards. Her points average rocketed up from two in her freshman year to eight in her sophomore season, and there's no sign of that improvement slowing down, as she enters her second-to-last season. 

Kendall Heremaia in action for Junior Tall Ferns
Kendall Heremaia in action for Junior Tall Ferns. Photo credit: Photosport

When she's not on the court, Heremaia works towards her degree, studying film and television. In her freshman year, she was also added to the Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll. 

Division one teams are assembling for training camps by the end of September, with the season getting underway in November.

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