Porirua’s Aotea College have big basketball boots to fill
Porirua’s Aotea College Senior A basketball team is determined to build on their success from last year’s top 4 placement in Wellington’s most prestigious school league.
Last season marked the 1st time in 10 years that Aotea College returned to the ‘premier league/Pohlen Cup’, qualifying but also beating several schools and odds to finish 4th.
Pre season training is underway and senior player Olano Afutoto (17) says they are confident that they can definitely further their success this year.
Aotea have high chances to win the prems/Pohlen cup in 2017 Afutoto states
“Last year was our first year in prems and some of us weren’t used to the level of skill and physicality, but we did really well to finish in the top 4 and with that experience we can only get better this year,” Afutoto says.
Afutoto, a 1.83m shooting guard, says that his love for the game and the competitiveness of it drives him to win.
“Basketball is a team sport, but one person can make a difference.
“That drives me to be the best I can be. If I can be the best version of myself, there’s not a lot of people that can stop me or my team from winning.”
Last season helped Aotea College as now this year they are mentally ready and more experienced for this season.
Aotea College belongs in the ‘prems’ Afutoto says despite his ankle sprain injury.
“I sprained it quite bad, I’m supposed to be out of sport for another 2-3 weeks. I was in the best shape of my life.”
Coach Craig Pursglove also shares Afutoto’s confidence in his team.
“The season doesn’t start till the second term. It will take him sometime to get back to match fitness again but I think we can cover that role till he gets back to 100%.”
Pursglove is confident in his returning players after last years success.
“We have good bunch of players,in the off season they have stepped up and are eager to get into this season with taking leadership roles.”
“Looking at the teams last year most of them lost many players, whereas we’ve kept all but three. Our core is intact.”
He isn’t fazed by the town schools despite their advantages in resources for recruiting.
“But we do know the town schools like to go scouting and offer scholarships which is something we don’t have.”
Pursglove’s believes his coaching philosophy in ‘the basics’ will make it harder for the opposition this year if the pieces fall into place.
“If you can get players grounded on the basics, ball handling, shooting fitness etcetera if we can get that right it makes it hard for other teams.”
Aotea College didn’t go to the regionals tournament last year that would have possibly given them a qualification placing at nationals.
This is a concern that has been addressed by Pursglove.
“Last year we were unable to go due to fundraising so we made a call late last year with the results of last season that we would campaign to go to regionals and nationals this season.”
Aotea’s 1.95m centre Matthew Clarke-Cox (17) shares his coach’s concern for the lack of large-scale tournaments.
“We’re firmly set on going to regionals and highly determined to go to nationals and do as best we can this year.”
Clarke-Cox stresses what has to be done to be successful on a regional and national scale.
“We don’t have the resources like the big schools, we just have to work harder and play to win and compete”.
“The effort of some of our players are lacking compared to last year, we did so well last year, we aim to win it all this year.”
“You can’t do the same old stuff and expect to get any better”.
However, Clarke-Cox has a blunt message for his teammates.
Aotea College have changed their training regime to continue their success into this season.
“We have involved more than just basketball into our trainings to try and get bigger, better, faster and stronger.”
“Basketball is a physical game, there’s more than just skill involved.”
Clarke-Cox’s tough talk is backed up by his team captain and point guard Isaac Dowden (17).
“We are trying to build the culture of Aotea College basketball with values such as not slacking off and working hard to be successful”
“We could see at the end of last year especially as we won some key games. As the season goes on we will click.”
With their success, trash talk also comes hand in hand.
Asked whether if trash talk and intimidation was an issue for players, Dowden said
”We take it and move on, we haven’t had that much since we are underdogs. But it’s not new.”
“We find the energy to pick ourselves up again, you can’t give up because someone says or thinks you can’t’ do it”