High calibre to local basketballers

Young local basketballers have done well qualifying for nationals. File photo.

Tauranga’s young basketballers have proved their mettle at the Mid North Qualifying Tournament, held over Queen’s Birthday weekend.

All four teenage teams progressed through to the nationals, with the under-15 boys topping their grade.

The nationals will be held in the July school holidays, with the under-17 teams heading to Wellington, and the under-15s going further south to Dunedin.

Tauranga City Basketball Association general manager Mark Rogers says it’s only the third time all four teams have qualified since changes to the age groups in 2006.

“These good results are important for our player pathways. We’re starting to see some success from our development programme that’s been running for seven years. Some of these kids started in the under-9s, so they’ve been going since the beginning.”

It’s this kind of success that bodes well for TCBA’s franchise ambitions in the New Zealand National Basketball League.

The NBL Final Four are coming to Tauranga this weekend, to play at ASB Arena. It’s widely seen as a way of testing the waters to see if Tauranga fans could back a franchise of their own.

“We’re expecting a great crowd. They’ve taken a bit of a punt bringing it to Tauranga, so we hope the crowds will support it,” says Mark.

“A good turnout will show good support for the NBL, which will help get a franchise off the floor.”

Tauranga City Basketball have also made an application under the council’s Annual Plan for three years’ worth of funding, totalling $300,000, to help get a possible franchise off the ground.

“We haven’t had a response to that submission yet,” says Mark.

“The first three years is the toughest time to get any organisation off the ground. We thought it would fit well with the council, and help tourism during the winter months.”

Either way, they will be pushing ahead, even if it means delaying the franchise a little longer.

“We’ve got local players playing at colleges in the United States at the moment. So there’s plenty of talent here.”

Tickets are still on sale for the NBL Final Four. Supporters can go to Ticketek or Baycourt for tickets, with TECT cardholders getting 50 per cent off if they show their card at Baycourt. Alternatively, there will be door sales on the night.

The Final Four will be hosted at ASB Arena, Baypark in Tauranga. The semi-finals will be on Friday June 16 from 5pm, the final will be on Saturday, June 17, at 5pm.

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