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New skills . . . Weston School pupil Sophie Braid (12) spends time with Tall Fern and Otago Gold Rush forward Zoe Richards as she teaches her to weave the ball through her legs. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Young North Otago basketball enthusiasts have been treated to training sessions from international and reigning national league champions.

Tall Fern and Otago Gold Rush forward Zoe Richards and Otago Nuggets players Kane Keil and Richie Rodger visited four primary and intermediate schools to promote basketball and complete skills and drills sessions with pupils.

They learned how to dribble the ball and finish off a layup, and played games of basketball to finish off the programme.

It was designed to provide the pupils with basic skills and “plant the seed” for them to try it at home, Richards said.

“It’s getting back out in the community and hoping to inspire them to get involved in the sport .. it’s great to have the Nuggets boys for them to look up to, too.”

She was passionate about helping girls realise their potential and providing a pathway for them to continue with basketball.

“It’s good being able to get into these country schools where they probably don’t get to see female basketball that much, and to come and do some skills with them is great.

“Basketball New Zealand have the Girls Got Game programme for them .. lots of them think only netball is for girls, but basketball is too.”

Basketball was a well-rounded sport and having a Tall Fern teaching them would help break the stigma and attract them to the sport, Basketball Otago community development officer Matt Brown said.

The sessions were designed to promote fun through the sport and have top-level athletes engaging with the children.

“It’s a massive resource having access to a Tall Fern and Otago Nuggets . . . we’re looking to spread basketball among the kids to have fun, and enjoy themselves – the emphasis is on having fun,” he said.

All the pupils relished having the opportunity to learn off the group.

“They were held up signing autographs and talking to the kids after the sessions.”