Kiwi Charlisse soaring high

It's all in the genes

Kiwi Charlisse soaring high

Charlisse Trinity Leger-Walker has been the standout performer for the young New Zealand side that sealed their berth in the FIBA under-17 women’s basketball World Cup here on Thursday.

Although Charlisse fell a little short of her usual standard in their 80-52 win against Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinal of the FIBA under-16 Asian Championship here, the 16-year-old was a key figure for the Kiwis in all their wins during the group stage.

The guard, with 66 points after four games, shares the top spot with Lutong Liu of China in Division A. Charlisse was pretty excited to captain the first-ever New Zealand age-group team to qualify for the World Cup.

“It’s awesome. We’ve all been working hard to get to where we are today. I think I’m really proud for all of us. We’ve been working hard for this since December last year. It’s an amazing feeling, especially to have captained the team,” she said.

Charlisse followed in the footsteps of her mother Leanne Walker and sister Krystal Leger-Walker to become the third member of her family to represent the New Zealand team, known as ‘Tall Ferns’. Leanne also represented her country in Touch rugby – another sport Charlisse excels in.  

“I started playing basketball when I was three so I’ve always been around the court with my mum and sister. I’ve also played touch rugby and a bit of netball when I was younger because my mum also represented NZ in touch as well. My mum is like my coach, she influences me so much,” said Charlisse.

“There is a lot of competitiveness between us,” she said about her sister Krystal. “She was just coming off an injury in the camp that I went to. So we weren’t actually playing with each other. But she always pushes me to achieve my best. My younger sister, too, is coming through. She’s 11,” added Charlisse.

Looking ahead, Charlisse wants to join Krystal, who studies and plays on a scholarship in the United States with the University of Northern Colorado.     

“Right now I’m looking to go to college in the States and see where that takes me. If I get a chance to play in the WNBA after that, then yes,” she said.

The seriousness of the New Zealand preparation can be gauged from the fact that they had hired a rugby coach to get the team accustomed to the physicality of Asian basketball.

“Yes, we did. We had a rugby coach come in and do a tackling session so the girls get used to hitting people and being hit. It took the fear of physicality out. It really helped us a lot,” New Zealand head coach Lorraine McDaniel revealed.


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