New Zealand Hoops – Q&A With Kayla Manurirangi

What is your full name and where are you from?

Kayla Miriama Manurirangi.

I currently live in Taranaki, but was born in Gore.

Why did you choose the game of basketball? 

Well, I like art and sports, and for me basketball was the perfect combination of both. I could express my creativity through the skills I learnt dribbling/shooting/combo moves and I loved the competitiveness of the sport. Not to mention, the amazing people you meet, experiences you have and life lessons you learn!

What schools did you attend, and what were your achievements and highlights?

I attended Hawera High School from Yr 9 -11, but moved to New Plymouth Girls High School from Yr 12-13 for more basketball opportunities. In Yr 12 NPGHS we won the first National 3X3 Team and also the National 5×5 Tournament for the first time. I represented New Zealand from U16-U19. Also, I just finished 4 and 1/2 years (slightly shortened because of COVID) at Tulane University which is a Division 1 program in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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

Whether it be basketball or not, find your passion – something you love to do and also makes you happy. Once you find that thing, commit to it and give everything you can to that. No point doing anything half-hearted in life!

What has been the ultimate highlight so far in your career? 

Representing New Zealand is always an incredible honour, but if I could pinpoint one particular time it would probably be my freshman year in college when we lost to UCONN by 3pts. I think they were on a 101-win streak, the longest in college history in any sport, and we almost beat them – half the city came to the game that night. It was the best loss ever haha.

Who has been your biggest influence in basketball and why?

I have been fortunate enough to have had many people play a pivotal role in my basketball development and it would be unfair to name just one, so to name a couple: my family, Solly, Bones, Aik, Trent, my Tulane coaches & Stretch.

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

I’d love to see a professional league for women in New Zealand. A pathway for females after college to play basketball at a high level while living in New Zealand. There are many other challenges I struggle with that could also help improve the professional landscape for women. For those living in smaller regions (rurally myself) aren’t training and playing high level basketball often, also trying to work 40 hours a week while training is incredibly difficult to juggle.

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

Currently in New Zealand, I’d probably say Penina and Stella. They’ve been in the Tall Ferns program for ages and have proven they can play at the highest level. They’re both incredible athletes, and having been at camp with them for a week, they are actually amazing team mates. They are the best players but don’t act like they’re any greater than anyone else, and treat others kindly – which is something I really appreciate.

In terms of your playing career, what would be the pinnacle for you? 

I honestly feel like I’ve never reached a pinnacle. Even though I’ve played the sport for almost 10 years now, I still don’t feel like I’ve ever reached my full potential which is hard because I don’t want to stop playing until I feel like I utilized all of my potential, but also, I know that at some point I will have to put my career as a public health professional ahead of basketball – at the moment, playing basketball as a female in New Zealand doesn’t pay the bills.

What’s the best pair of basketball shoes you have owned? 

Oooo that one’s easy. Kobe 6’s – the snake skin ones… followed by the Kobe 9’s

You played in the Showcase on August 1st, what was it like to be a part of that experience? 

It was an incredible chance to showcase a lot of the talented female basketball players in New Zealand, and to inspire the next generation of girl ballers! Personally, I was disappointed with my performance, however, it’s much bigger than my own personal success – it’s about that young girl with a dream of putting that black singlet on one day! That’s who we were playing for 🙂 

#BuildTheCulture 🏀

Published by Jesse Wallis

Basketball Journalist

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