Q&A With Molly Cockburn

What is your full name and where are you from?

My name is Molly Cockburn, I’m from Kaiapoi just North of Christchurch, New Zealand.

Why did you choose the game of basketball? 

My primary school Kaiapoi North School had a great basketball programme, as well as two amazing teachers that are so passionate about basketball,  Mrs Tania Reid and Mrs Megan Gilmore. I was a netballer and they “twisted” my arm after one tournament I was hooked! I know they say balance is better, but I was so hooked on Basketball I stopped netball with the year.

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

I moved back and forth a bit, in year 9 I was at Kaiapoi high school, I then attended Avonside Girls School for three years. For my final year of high school I went back to Kaiapoi High. I was very lucky at all my schools. I had amazing coaches such as Pina Lissaman at Avonside, and Coach Pete McAlister at Kaiapoi who I got to reconnect with. At Kaiapoi I got to play with Helen Matthews, training with her going head to head was so good for my game. I guess one of the Achievements that got me really hooked on basketball was going to the Aims games In Tauranga when i was 12, this was amazing, and I made the tournament team. Later that year I played in the last ever under 13 Nationals in Dunedin for little old Canterbury country and we beat Harbour in the final. That was pretty amazing. Our team was spread out from North Canterbury to Timaru. We had to billet each other out just to train. It was extra special because in Dunedin my great grandparents met playing basketball for Otago. After those nationals I went on the Koru tour and that was when netball went. All nationals have been a great experience and the high school all-stars game at the end of year 13 playing at Horncastle arena with the sky tv crew filming was a huge buzz. I was lucky enough to be the girls mvp. Playing in the north Canterbury prems women’s team was also a huge highlight, I feel so grateful to have played with so many talented women. I guess a lot of the highlights for me are the girls I’ve played with. 

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

Basketball is a great physical game, and you will make lifelong friends all over the country and world if you take the opportunities that are given to you. I have met some of my best friends through basketball like Ash Strawbridge, I started playing against at age 11 then played together for Canterbury country and waitaha, then against each other at high school. Now we are both in the USA chasing our dreams and we have stayed close friends. If you want to go to the USA, grades are just as important as your basketball, this could be the difference on whether or not you go to a good school. Something I have learned while being at college is that going through hard times or being knocked down is just as important as being successful as that’s how you learn and become better. These are the times when you find out about who you are and can prove yourself. 

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

Hard question as I hope it’s still to come! A highlight would be the 2019 Canterbury Club women’s premier final and beating  Lincoln Uni, as we had a lot of injuries, and we battled. Our team of mainly high school school girls with Esra Mcgoldrick leading us and we came away with the win.  

Who has been your biggest influence in basketball and why?

It’s so hard to choose one person, the old saying it takes a community to raise a child well I think  it’s the same with basketball and I really have been blessed with some amazing coaches. The last couple of years I have been training with Tyla Harrison Hunt who runs Crossover Coach. Tyla has been an amazing mentor for me and has helped me improve my game immensely which helped me get to college. My parents have also been a huge influence on my basketball, they have sacrificed so much in order for me to achieve my dreams and allow me to play the game. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Players wise Mary Jane Goulding I look up to her so much, she went from Gillette Juco to Fordham university. She is a total badass and very inspirational. I also look up to Esra McGoldrick, I grew up watching her play and have been lucky enough to play with her for North Canterbury the last couple years. She has now become a great friend of mine and I always look to her for advice. 

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

It could be huge if the growth continues, if you look at the difference in numbers of girls from even when I started at under 13s. There are some great programmes like girls got games, I just hope that we work hard to make basketball an attractive option for girls compared to other sports. One of the biggest downfalls is cost. My parents call basketball the new rowing with my 3 siblings playing too it has cost a small fortune. We need to encourage girls to take all opportunities after they leave school and keep playing. Get rid of the D1 or bust mentality a lot of people have …look how many great kiwi girls have signed in the last year to play at Jucos, surely there will be benefits for women’s basketball in NZ to have this many girls still playing and chasing there hoop dreams even at juco level..in the USA only 7 percent of girls go on to play any level of college ball.

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

 I have two Mary Jane Goulding and Esra McGoldrick, I was lucky enough to play prems with them last year. They are amazing players, they are so talented and tough, to me they are very different players but both are so hard to mark. On top of that they both have such great personalities which I think is also important.

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

I would say the ultimate men’s basketball player in New Zealand is Pero Cameron, Pero led New Zealand to the silver medal at the 2006 commonwealth games, this is the most successful we have ever been. 

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

Oh that’s a hard one, right now i’m focused on adjusting to the style of play at college. After two years at juco i’d love to get to a 4 year school to finish my degree then go from there. I would love come home after I finish my studies and play in the women’s NBL

What is the best pair of basketball shoes you have owned? 

Nike mamba fury I have two pairs! They are super light yet supportive.

Who has been the hardest person to guard in your career and why? 

There are a few, Helen Matthews is one she is so athletic and fast with the ball. The other two are Charlotte Whittaker and Esra McGoldrick as well as being so tall and strong they both have such a great skill set.

You are back off to the US, please tell me more?

I left for the USA In August I left a lot earlier than planned to to make sure I got there for the September start. I’m lucky My Aunt lives in California so she picked me up and got me all sorted with all the things I needed, then got me to Colorado where one of the sophomores Olivia Pacheco and her family lives. They picked me up and took me in as one of their own then delivered me to college, at Miles Community College in Montana. They play in the Mon-Dak conference Div 1 of the njcaa, Our season was delayed till January due to COVID but the silver lining was we could focus on our studies and I got 3.9 for my midterm Gpa. When I first decided I wanted to go to college in the USA no one talked about JUCOs it seemed to be a D1 or nothing mentality and I think some of the girls before me Like Mary Jayne Goulding and sisters Zoe and Brittany Richards broke that mould starting in Juco at Gillette in Wyoming…Last count there was around 11 Kiwis playing in the Mon-dak this season. Miles is a great small town, the people are amazing, we have great facilities and I love the environment of being able to jump on the court 7 days a week. Coach Harris works hard to prepare us for the next level on the court and off the court in 2019/20 he and the team won the award for highest team gpa at juco level. Miles City College has a motto Start here go anywhere, which motivates me. Unfortunately I got COVID-19 and it set me back in my training. It took a good 4 weeks to get over it. I’m all good now and just spent a white Christms in Wyoming, The Pacheco’s looked after me again. On the 3rd Of January we head back to College and all things going well we will tip off the official season on Wednesday 20th against Dawson, there are two kiwis Rashaan and Imogen.. I can’t wait!

#BuildTheCulture 🏀

Published by Jesse Wallis

Basketball Journalist

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