Porirua and Ngāti Toa-raised Jordan Ngatai is looking forward to shooting hoops at Te Rauparaha Arena.
The Wellington Saints, Breakers and Tall Blacks forward is back in Porirua for the International Indigenous Basketball and Cultural Tournament, which runs from 25-31 March at Te Rauparaha Arena.
While he is in pre-season training for the Saints, Ngatai can’t wait to hit the boards with his Toa Invitational teammates for the event.
“I love being back – this is where my family is and many of them can’t get to Wellington or Auckland, where I play most of my basketball,” he said.
“To be in Porirua, playing in front of my family is the best thing. There should be a lot of support at the Arena for Toa, which will be cool.
“Being Maori is not just what I am, it’s who I am and indigenous basketball is growing, so I’ll support it and this tournament as much as I can.”
Tournament organiser Deslea Wrathall said the confirmed tournament teams – five men’s and four women’s – will ensure there is some quality basketball action to witness.
Australia, Hawaii, Tonga, Mexico and Toa fill out the lineup, with the Hawaiian team definitely one to watch, she said.
“There are some professional and Division 1 college players in their squad – they’re here to play,” she said.
“They will have a real American style of play that is high-quality.”
Indigenous sport is still growing, but it is fantastic that the Māori men’s and women’s programmes are being developed in line with the national body, Ms Wrathall said.
This tournament was a legacy of former Recreation Porirua head Willie Taurima, who died in late 2018, she said.
“This tournament is something Willie had close to his heart, and he put so much effort into making this happen.
“Māori basketball was his dream – building a calendar of games and events for Maori basketball, men and women, to be involved in.
“He was so looking forward to this tournament.”
Ms Wrathall said the support of sponsors Te Puni Kōkiri, Trust House and Porirua City Council were vital to this event going ahead.
“It’s taken a lot to get to this point and we need to thank the Te Rauparaha Arena staff too – they’re professional and it’s great that we’re able to make use of a facility with great courts, changing rooms, and the pool next door.
“It’s a one-stop shop, everything is here and nice and central.”
Porirua Mayor Mike Tana said it was fantastic to have this level of sport in the city.
“This is a great chance for our people to come down and see some top quality basketball.
“It’s awesome that we can attract international teams of this calibre to Porirua and play this tournament at Te Rauparaha Arena.
“It’s an honour to have an indigenous sporting event like this choosing Porirua, which is such a diverse city in its own right.”
Australia and Hawaiian players will also host clinics for young Porirua players during the tournament.
All the teams will stay either at Elsdon Camp or Takapūwahia Marae, allowing for friendships to be forged, Ms Wrathall said.
All games are free to attend. Go to terauparaha-arena.co.nz and look under Events for the timetable.
15 Mar 2019