Introducing the next generation of women’s basketball in the Pacific

Tiyana Kainamoli of Fiji | Supplied: FIBA Oceania

GOLD COAST - The inaugural FIBA Pacific Youth Leaders (PYL) Basketball Camp will showcase some of the region’s most talented female basketballers.

FIBA was lucky enough to catch up with five of them – Daisy Arsen (Vanuatu), Leilani Vano (Cook Islands), Tiyana Kainamoli (Fiji), Vilisi Tavui (Fiji) and Linda Junita Kelsall (Samoa) – to chat about their basketball journey and what the game means to them.

Arsen has been playing basketball since she was 11, with a team in the Port Vila league. She currently plays with Won Smol Bag.

“It helps with my health and also makes me learn many drills,” Arsen said, when asked what basketball means to her.

“Basketball also helps with my finance through the Hoops for Health (H4H) program."

The Vanuatu native hopes to learn a number of different basketball and cooperation skills at the PYL camp, qualities Arsen hopes she can return to her team and community.

Vano has represented numerous teams in social games and competitions in her native nation of the Cook Islands. The sport has helped strength the bond between Vano and her family.

“Growing up I would watch both my parents train week after week,” Vano said.

“Playing basketball makes me feel more connected to my parents because they have taught me everything I know, and even when I play alongside them I feel more connected.”

Vano hopes that the skills she acquires at the PYL camp will help her family, teammates and friends.

“Both my younger brothers are autistic so I am constantly trying my hardest to help my parents in whatever way possible,” Vano said.

“I hope to learn more about the game and how to improve myself as a player, my skills and confidence, and I hope to gain this from participating in this camp.

“After the PYL camp I would pass on my experience to team mates and friends who are willing to learn more as well, because what is the point of improving one person's skills when it's a team sport? I would want to share my knowledge that I have gained from this camp to benefit others as well instead of just myself.”

Kianamoli brings a wealth of experience to the PYL camp, as she has represented Fiji in the FIBA 3x3 Oceania Championships and in multiple FIBA Oceania tournaments. She has also won school gold medals in long jump, showing her outstanding athletic ability.

The Fijian says basketball has taught her a number of valuable life lessons already.

“When playing basketball it gives me a sense of control, a mindset to be a winner, the determination to win, and be the best on the court,” Kainamoli said.

“It also means discipline, being respectful and the ability to learn to be a team member. Playing basketball has taught me to be a better person, to have the right attitude and that in order to succeed, one must work hard.”

Kainamoli hopes to learn a number of new skills at the PYL camp, which she can then pass onto her Fijian community.

“I hope to take my game to a higher level, learn to improve my game skills, ability to learn new game plans, read the opposition in the game, and improve defense,” shared Kainamoli.

Tavui has also represented Fiji, representing her country at the 2015 Pacific Games and the FIBA U18 Oceania Championships. Her relationship with the sport is unique.

“Basketball has been a love-hate relationship for me all my life,” outlined Tavui.

“I refuse to settle for anything less than the best. Hence, people tell me I push myself too hard, but I believe otherwise. I love the sport so much that it opens more opportunity in life."

Tavui looks to impress her family on a daily basis and hopes the skills she acquires from the PYL camp will help her improve.

“I hope to learn more and also continue to develop my skills,” Tavui added.

“I would definitely implement it in my games and as well as sharing what I have learned with my teammates.”

Kelsall has been playing basketball since she was eight and has a deep history with the sport. She competed in Australia in 2012 with the Samoan U18 side, going onto to represent Samoa in the 2014 FIBA U19 Oceania Championships. Kelsall is preparing for numerous tournaments coming up later this year and clearly committed to the sport.

“Basketball is my game, my passion, and my life,” explained Kelsall.

“It provides me with the opportunity to explore new things in life by travelling to new countries and new places. Basketball taught me to be a good team player and that all people are just as important as I am. It also taught me the values of respect, patience, working hard and that what you sow is what you reap."

“Being a captain, I have learned so much and experienced different leadership skills that can be applied in different situations and to different people at different times.”

Aiming to expand her basketball and leadership skills at the camp, Kelsall is also hoping to make a positive impact back home upon her return.

“I will share my experience to everyone I can through helping out with our federation especially,” Kelsall said.

“I will assist my coaches and my teammates by applying what I will learn from the camp. I will be working along with our federation executives and will be more than happy to offer my time to help out in any developments within schools, organisations, villages and within the country where my help is needed. I will lend my help wherever is needed but my focus is to make sure it helped strengthen the development not only basketball but for the people of Samoa."

The best emerging girls and boys from across the Oceania region will converge on the Gold Coast, Australia from September 2nd-11th.

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