NZSS Basketball Nationals: players to watch

The National Secondary Schools’ Basketball Championships are due to tip off in Palmerston North next week with the final being played on October 7 at Arena Manawatu. Among the 24 teams there is always a plethora of talent to watch for and 2017 is no exception. Here are seven names who could have a massive impact.

Cullum McRae (Palmerston North BHS) – Any seven-footer is going to cause hassles, but McRae has the finesse, explosiveness and shooting prowess to win the game on his own. In last year’s National final the big man scored 14 points in a row as Palmerston North nearly overhauled a 25 point deficit against Rangitoto College. Palmerston North are the Super 8 and Zone III champions in 2017. McRae top scored with 24 points in that final against Rongotai College. He was named in the 2016 Nationals tournament team.

Mitchell Dance (Rosmini College) – The New Zealand age-group representative was a key figure in Rosmini winning the Zone I title and reaching the Auckland final. Dance has the ability to dominate inside as well shoot from the outside. Perhaps the most impressive display Dance has produced this season was in the Auckland semi-final when he scored 36 points in a win against Westlake Boys’ High School. Additionally, Dance scored a game-leading 25 points in the decider.

Tom Higgins (Auckland Grammar School) – The Te Awamutu import was pivotal in helping that school reach the AA Nationals for the first time, but in pursuit of greater success Higgins transferred to Auckland Grammar School and has had a big impact. Grammar have beaten defending National champions Rangitoto College twice this season and Higgins top scored in one of those games. Additionally, the New Zealand age group rep scored 29 points in the win against Mount Albert Grammar School which secured Auckland Grammar the minor premiership title for winning the round- robin.

Dan Fotou (Rangitoto College) – Rangitoto College lost five games and were fourth after the round-robin of the Auckland competition, but produced their best in the finals defeating the top two teams Auckland Grammar and Rosmini College to capture the title. Fotou has been absent for much of the year with various New Zealand teams, but his form has been top class lately. He scored 28 points in the Zone I final recently against Rosmini College.

Max de Geest (Christ’s College) – Christ’s College have been the big improvers in the South Island this year winning both the Christchurch title and the Zone IIII championship. Max top scored in the final of the Thompson Trophy against Cashmere High School banking 16 points in a game that featured 14 lead changes and ties. Max has been involved with Canterbury Rams and New Zealand Under-17 programs.

James Moors (Westlake Boys’ High School) – The New Zealand Under-18 rep stands 6 ft 10 and is Westlake’s most prodigious scorer and dangerous player. The MVP of the 2016 National Under-17 tourney top-scored in both Auckland games against Rangitoto College and produced a star turn in the semi-final against Rosmini College racking up 35 points nearly winning for Westlake a game they trailed in throughout.

Johnny Helu (Wellington College) – Wellington College had lost five times to St Pat’s Town during the season, but stunned the perennial powerhouse in the capital when they won the Pohlen trophy final for the first time in 22 years. Helu top scored with 20 points in the 65-63 triumph. Helu is a busy and aggressive guard who is a real leader for Wellington especially after original head coach, Danny Page departed mid-season to help run an NBA academy in Mumbai, India.

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