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International experience . . . Max de Geest (centre) in action for Long Beach State University. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Max de Geest’s freshman year playing basketball for Long Beach State University was a “dream come true”.

The former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil returned home to Oamaru after Covid-19 cut his debut season short for the division 1 college basketball side.

But de Geest, who has represented New Zealand playing for the Junior Tall Blacks, the New Zealand 3×3 team and as part of an extended Breakers squad, said his debut season in America was an “awesome” experience.

For a freshman, de Geest was happy with his playing time in Los Angeles, averaging 13.6 minutes and 3.5 points per game.

“I started off really well and halfway through the season I had a couple of bad games in a row. My confidence got knocked a bit.

“I was lucky as, most freshman don’t even get a chance to play a whole lot.”

Covid-19 brought the basketball season to a halt just two hours before de Geest was set to play a crucial game against the University of California Irvine.

“It was the first game of the tournament – quarter finals of our conference,” de Geest said.

“This was to make the big dance so we [were] all hyped .. we [were] juiced for this game and then they [called] us into the room and said done’.”

De Geest flew home to New Zealand soon after.

“We [were] at the airport and all of the boys were pretty depressed – it was gutting.

“[As a freshman], I was lucky, I felt for my senior team mates, they didn’t even get the chance to play their last game knowing it was their last game.”

De Geest’s ultimate goal is to make the NBA, but he knows the competition will be intense.

“It may not be attainable, but I just want to play professional for as long as I can,” he said.

At university, de Geest is studying business, majoring in marketing.

As well as training for six to seven hours a day, study was also a priority for him.

If players did not pass their courses, they risked going on academic probation and not being allowed to play basketball, he said.

“It took me a bit to get back in school mode, it took me a while to balance my education and my basketball.

“They really enforce the study and they make sure you value that just as much as basketball.”

Last season’s Long Beach State University team included players from across America and the world – and de Geest said he was looking forward to returning to play later in the year.

“I loved my coaches and got on with everyone really well so I don’t have any thoughts about transferring,” he said.

Until then, he will keep up his training in Oamaru and have a few sessions with the New Zealand Breakers in Auckland.

De Geest finished his schooling at Christ’s College, leaving Waitaki Boys’ High School halfway through year 11.

But Oamaru held a special place in his heart and he had enjoyed being home in New Zealand for the enforced break.

Last week, he visited the Waitaki Boys’ High School Academy of Sports Performance to talk about his journey to playing division 1 basketball in America and his goals for the future.