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Gisborne baller headed for Las Vegas

She’s got a great opportunity.

Amoe Wharehinga, 15, will play small forward for the New Zealand Basketball Academy under-16 girls’ team in three tournaments in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Amoe’s naturally athletic, keen to learn and works hard at her game,” said her coach, Voldi Simi, who will depart from Wellington with the 12-player group on Monday.

“She’s tough — she’ll run the lanes and crash the boards for us.”

Simi is delighted with Wharehinga’s improvement as a shooter both in terms of technique and range.

Three NZBA teams (the u16s, u13s and a “varsity” team) will play in the Jam On It Las Vegas Classic, Jam On It Las Vegas Finale and Big Foot Classic — all three-day tournaments with at least two games a day — at the Las Vegas Convention Centre.

Last year the u16s were placed second in their first tournament, third in their second tourney and fourth in the Big Foot Classic.

Wharehinga’s family and community network have rallied since January to raise $5500 for her trip to Las Vegas. Family assistance in fitness and conditioning and the willingness of local coaches such as Harriet Peipi (Gizzy Hoops boys) and Tom Tindale (Gisborne Basketball Association u15 girls) have also been invaluable to a young person whose résumé across a range of sports speaks to her great energy and ability.

She attended Riverdale Primary School and Gisborne Intermediate School, is now in Year 11 at Lytton High School and is Lytton’s Y11 athletics champion.

She was a member of the Paikea Peak Performance rugby sevens u16 team who went to Las Vegas in 2018.

In basketball, she was selected for the New Zealand Basketball Association u14 and u16 teams in 2017 and went with the Koru u16s to Australia in 2018.

She was a Gisborne Netball Centre u15 representative and captain of the Tairawhiti Maori u15 team in 2019.

“I’m super-excited but also nervous,” Wharehinga said.

“My aim is to take my game to a whole new level, and my immediate goal is to come back with a medal because I believe in my team and I believe that we can medal up.

“My long-term goal is to become skilled in basketball, netball and rugby, which — although it’ll take a lot — I believe is achievable.

“I also want to show everyone that what they’ve done to support me wasn’t for nothing.

“My one piece of advice for other youth is: don’t let shyness stop you from growing. You have it in you to be something great. Push yourself to go beyond your comfort zone because when you get to where you never thought you’d be, it’s an amazing feeling.”