If you measure metrically, the journey from Hawera to New Orleans checks off at just over 12,500 kilometres. In almost every other way you can measure it, Kayla Manuirirangi knows the gap between the two places is much, much larger.
Manuirirangi is in the midst of the first full season of a four-year basketball scholarship at New Orleans' Tulane University. The Hawera 19-year-old forms part of an impressive vanguard of young Maori basketballers in the famed American college system.
Along with herself, Nga Puhi's Nikau McCullough plays at St Mary's College in Texas while Laken Wairau, who is affiliated to Te Awara, Ngai Tahu and Ngati Rongomaiwahine, plays and studies at the University of Indiana.
Tainui's Tai Wynyard—son of famed woodchopper Jason—is arguably the most well known of the quartet. He plays at the famed University of Kentucky Wildcats.
The four Maori basket-ballers are part of a large 'golden generation' of young Kiwis in the college hoops system, with Pakeha players such as Matt Freeman (Oklahoma), Jack Salt (Virginia) and Sam Timmins (Washington) also at high profile schools.
Manuirirangi—who is Ngati Ruanui—emerged as a rising Kiwi basketball star at high school in Taranaki, making national age group teams in the Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 grades as well as helping New Plymouth Girls Hawk win the New Zealand secondary school title in 2014.
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