Supreme award surprise

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Winning the supreme award at Monday night’s Waitaki Sports Awards came as a surprise for basketballer Max de Geest.

De Geest (19) won the junior sportsman of the year award for his efforts with the round ball in 2018 and went on to claim supreme honours at the Waitaki Community Recreation Centre.

Unable to make it to the awards night due to training commitments in Auckland, de Geest received the news by text message and his father, North Otago basketball great Brian de Geest, accepted the awards on his behalf.

“I wish I was there,” de Geest said.

“There’s a whole lot of talent down there – I was really surprised and humbled getting that award.”

De Geest had a remarkable 2018, playing for the Junior Tall Blacks side which finished second at the Asian junior championships, joining the Canterbury Rams in their NBL campaign and playing for the New Zealand 3×3 team which attended the Asian under-18 Fiba Cup. De Geest was named MVP of the tournament.

But getting the call-up to join the Breakers last season as a development player, and taking the court for them in a game against the Cairns Taipans in November, was his career highlight.

“That’s a team I’ve grown up watching my whole life and being able to play with some of the guys like Thomas Abercrombie was pretty surreal,” he said.

The Breakers’ season has wrapped up, but de Geest remains in Auckland training with head coach Kevin Braswell.

“I’m training every morning and sometimes at night with him, [and] with a couple of other development players that are staying behind getting ready for the NBL season,” he said.

De Geest has been signed to play division 1 college basketball in the United States and is set to leave for Long Beach State University in California in July.

“It’s been my dream to play college sports in America,” he said.

“America’s just got the best of the best there, so to further your game more you should go over there.

“I just thought it was the best option for me, rather than just limiting myself to New Zealand.”

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

But Oamaru holds a special place in his heart and he enjoys visiting every few months to see family and friends.

In other Network Waitaki Sports Awards results, swimmer Tarona Taafaki won the award for female emerging talent award and karate exponent Camden Budge won the male emerging talent award.

Netballer Taneisha Fifita won the junior sportswoman award. She played for the Southern Steel and also played for the Southern Beko netball team.

Cyclist Hamish McCallum won the athlete with a disability award.

Otago Spirit loose forward Morgan Henderson won the sportswoman of the year award while mountain biker Tim Rush won sportsman of the year.

The masters award went to triathlete Adair Craik.

Coach of the year went to Michelle Johnston, who coached gymnasts to medals at the South Island and national championships.

The award for team of the year went to rowers Logan Docherty and James Scott, who performed well at a national level.

The official in sport award was given to Nick Webster, who made his rugby refereeing debut at Mitre 10 Cup level last year.

The services to sport award was given to long-time Otago Daily Timescorrespondent Terry O’Neill.

O’Neill has been reporting on sport in North Otago for countless years and continues in the valuable role as North Otago sports correspondent.

Michael Sandri won the innovation in sport award for the Alps 2 Ocean Ultra race.

– Additional reporting Otago Daily Times