New Zealand Hoops – Q&A With Kayla Kiriau

📷 @egmphotography

What is your full name and where are you from?

Kayla Kiriau from Wellington, New Zealand 

What is your profession and how long have you been doing it?

Im currently a Youth worker for children in the system, I direct my own basketball academy on the Gold Coast (Xpress Basketball and operate accounts for Rogue Conditioning. I’ve been fortunate to be heavily involved in basketball industry. I also am a semi-professional basketball player who plays in the Queensland Basketball League.

Why did you choose the game of basketball?

It was a vehicle to travel and explore the world. Growing up I had a little half court in my backyard and I would play against my brothers and sisters for fun. My father would coach us to compete and it was a fun sport to interact with the family.
Also, thanks to Kenny Mcfadden afterschool sessions at Hoop Club which introduced me to playing the game in my youth. My first coach was Kim Crocker who also played for New Zealand and Nola Taumoepeau who had just came back from playing at Oklahoma State University. They were pivotal in teaching me structured basketball. My older cousin Fairen Lepaio, also inspired me to play through her receiving her own basketball scholarship to Hutchison Kansas in the USA.

What school did you attend? and what were your achievements and highlights?

Wellington East Girls College – 3x Times basketball player of the Year  – Wellington Junior Collegiate Regional Champion 
Sheridan Junior College, WY 2011-2013 – Gillete Cup Champion and 2012 Region XI All Tournament Team
Point Park University, PA 2013-2015 – KIAC Conference Champion – 3x KIAC NAIA Conference player of the week 

You are role a model for young women, what advice do you have for them getting into basketball?

Block out the noise and know why you are playing the game. Remember to enjoy the journey and process because it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. 

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

My highlight has actually been giving back to the community. Mentoring younger athletes and advising them on the opportunities that basketball has to offer while also being realistic. I would have to say going back to Wellington East Girls College and coaching with my twin sister Shanee and having a no loss record while taking out the Junior Wellington Collegiate Sport competition in 2016. They hadn’t won since we last played in high school, so that was a special moment to come back after my years of playing in the USA and still staying close to the game. At the point I was burnt out with playing.
– Another highlight would be playing for Gladstone in the QBL and falling back in love with the game after a year off in 2017. That was an amazing team with some talented women who were able to reach semi-finals with only 7 players the whole season.
– Also being FIBA Champion for the Pacific Qualifying Cup in 2018 with the Cook Island National Team.

Who has been your biggest influence in basketball and why?

My biggest influence would have to be Newtown Show buildings Kenny Mcfaddens 6am Morning Trainings, on a dingy two court stadium with so many dead spots on the floorboards. The majority of my family played at the representative level for Wellington, NZ age groups and high caliber High School teams, so my social time was spent playing with my family at this stadium. I was there almost every day growing up. 

Do you have a favorite WNBA team?

Dont have one , but my favourite NBA team would be the Spurs. I love Greg Poppovich. 

Where do you see women’s basketball in the next five years? 

I would like to see New Zealand utilize the opportunity to bring imports from overseas and have a competitive professional league that could run for a reasonable period. I would like to see the funding and sponsorship increase to give out to communities in which the game is not as accessible as in the bigger cities. I would like to see more women in basketball leadership roles to introduce and grow the sport. I would like to see more female basketball icons working in less fortunate communities to inspire young females to play. 

Who is the ultimate women’s basketball player in New Zealand?

Milomilo Nanai when she’s in the zone. Girl plays like a dude.

📷 @adamgalle


Published by Jesse Wallis

Basketball Journalist

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