Manuirirangi returns home to compete in New Zealand’s Nationals competition

Courtesy of Tulane Athletics

Few experiences compare to the opportunity to both follow your dreams and represent your home on a national scale, but that is exactly what junior Kayla Manuirirangi experienced as she took part
in the New Zealand Women’s Basketball U23 Nationals competition this past month.

This U23 tournament began on Aug. 7 and took place in Wellington, New Zealand. The Hawera native competed in Pool A, which consisted of teams from four regions, including Manuirirangi’s home region of Taranaki. Manuirirangi, along with the Taranaki region, defeated the Manawatu region 80-70 on Aug. 9  to finish in third place in Pool A.

Competing at such a high level is far from new to Manuirirangi. In 2012, she made her debut on the junior national scene, playing for New Zealand’s U16 squad. In the following years, she captained both the U17 and U18 teams before going on to join the Junior Tall Ferns (U19). Furthering this success, she led her team to a high school championship in 2014, earning herself recognition as the tournament’s MVP.

Manuirirangi’s dedication to the sport did not go unnoticed and resulted in her receiving dozens of scholarship offers to play at the collegiate level from schools across the U.S.

Ultimately, Tulane was able to offer Manuirirangi something no other school could: Coach Lisa Stockton. The opportunity to learn from a highly-esteemed coach with 30 years of experience was too good for Manuirirangi to pass up.

The decision to play in the U.S., however, was about more than just basketball. As a Maori, one of the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, Manuirirangi saw an opportunity to inspire and encourage Maori kids to pursue their own dreams.

Tulane’s strong academics also factored into Manuirirangi’s decision. Studying public health and nutrition, she views school as a top priority.

Despite needing to adjust to the many technical aspects and intensity of playing basketball in America, Manuirirangi worked ceaselessly to earn her spot on the Green Wave. During her sophomore year, she played all 31 games, lead the team in assists with 107, and averaged 7.7 points per game, which was the second highest for Tulane’s women’s basketball program. She was named to the American Athletic Conference honor roll in January after high-scoring games against the University of Connecticut and the University of Houston.

Manuirirangi’s August tournament appearance could earn her attention from the New Zealand National team, known to fans as the Tall Ferns. Manuirirangi, who was previously invited to try out in the summer of 2017, has expressed many times that she finds inspiration in the women who play for the team.

For now, Manuirirangi will be focusing on transitioning back to her likely role as the Green Wave’s starting point guard. The team will open the season against the Texas Southern University Tigers on Nov. 8 at the Avron B. Fogelman Arena in the Devlin Fieldhouse.

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