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Thursday, 25 April 2019 05:42 am

McCullough makes jump to world champs team

right side topBASKETBALL is taking Nikau McCullough to the other side of the world at just 18 years of age.

McCullough (right) has been selected for the New Zealand Under-18 team for the FIBA 3×3 World Championships in Hungary.

Next month’s trip is another achievement to add to McCullough’s long basketball resume.

The Waikato native has travelled the world and participated in prestigious global basketball camps such as Basketball without Boarders and Adidas Nations, which cater to the top under-18 basketball players around the world.

McCullough, who was named Waikato secondary school sportsman of the year in 2014, moved to Porirua to play for the defending National Basketball league (NBL) champions, the Wellington Saints.

He made the move to the capital so that he could train with the best and prepare himself for the more physical side of the game against grown men.

“I just finished school so I think it would be good to train with men. Just that physical and professional aspect, training every day, just getting out of that schoolboy mentality,” McCullough says.

Like most young aspiring basketballers in New Zealand, McCullough hopes to earn a basketball scholarship to play college ball in America.

He believes his time with the Saints, along with his selection to the New Zealand U-18 3×3 team, will help his chances of getting to the US.

Aside from the talent pool in America, there is another hurdle all kiwi athletes face when competing for places in US colleges.

“A lot of it is education. Like my SATs. I’m just trying to study for those,” Nikau says.

The SAT test assesses a student’s readiness for college. All student athletes must pass the test.

The dream to play basketball started at a crossroads when Nikau was contemplating other sports he was involved in at a young age, like rugby and touch rugby.

Once he realised his love for basketball, he chose to solely invest his time into the sport.

McCullough will travel with his New Zealand teammates to Colorado Springs on May 27 to train with the USA 3×3 team before heading to the world championships.

The world champs are in Debrecen, Hungary June 4-7.

New Zealand won the competition in its first year of 2011 with a team which starred current Tall Blacks Isaac Fotu and Tai Webster.

Both players went on to receive US division one basketball scholarships following the tournament.

Much like the rugby sevens is to the fifteen a side game, 3×3 is a form of the more commonly known five-a-side game of basketball, but played three-a-side using only one hoop.

This basketball discipline is currently being promoted and structured by FIBA, the sport’s governing body.



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