Hawke's Bay town working to fast-track talented girls to basketball scholarships in the States




A small Hawke's Bay community is working hard to put talented young women on track to attain bright futures and educational opportunities through scholarships to American colleges by playing basketball.

Bridge Pa has set up a unique support system to get its talented youngsters to colleges in the States to pay basketball.
Source: Seven Sharp

Bridge Pa may be a tiny township of just over 1,000 people but it hasn't stopped locals from getting young girls to dream big.

Inside the local church gym, the same sentence comes up when young girls are asked what they want to do – "I want to be a WNBA player".

The WNBA is the women's version of the NBA with the men's version being where New Zealander Steven Adams is currently thriving on a $140 million contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Bridge Pa wants more Kiwi athletes to crack basketball's top-flight competitions so they've established their own basketball academy in the small town.

"Kids are missing out," academy coach Tinaka Taito said.

"There's so many talented kids and they miss out because they don't have these opportunities and that's why we wanted to set this up free and just help them get there rather than see wasted talent."

Coach Tinaka says the game can open different pathways for the passionate players, including an education overseas with scholarships to US universities.

"To be able to play the sport that they love and gain a free education at no cost, it's a big deal."

Coach Tinaka's no stranger to the journey either - she had a front row seat as her daughter Khaedin's basketball dreams took flight.

"I was like, 'let's just give this a shot'," Khaedin said.

"I signed up with a recruiting agency, and from there it just all blew up - I actually got 120 offers just around America, all ranging from junior college to NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association)."

Though she originally took the court for the University of Southern California, this coming season Khaedin will play for Brigham Young University.

"My coach there is Jeff Judkins - he's a former NBA player."

Khaedin's journey so far now serving as blazing trail for other Bridge Pa hopefuls to aspire to.

"The athletes, they're treated like goddesses," Coach Tinaka said.

"I've spoken to some of the coaches over there and they love the Kiwi kids because they come from humble beginnings, and they want to work for it."

The academy is run solely by local family, but there's just as much emphasis on school books as there are playbooks.

"It takes skills, but if you don't have your academics up, you can't go to college,” Khaedin said. "Academics are just as important as sports."

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