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In March last year we featured the opening of the wonderful new Westlake Boys High School gym on the cover of Channel. In the cover photo, with Breakers and Tall Blacks star Tom Abercrombie were two young promising Westlake basketballers. One was young seventh-former Isaac Letoa. Fast forward just over a year and the youngster has been offered a scholarship to attend an Ivy League school in the US (Dartmouth College) to play division one basketball and gain a degree. The college is located at Hanover in the state of New Hampshire in the United States. Isaac has been playing for the Wellington Saints while waiting to head off to the US at the end of August. Aidan Bennett put these questions to him in early April as he was signing his exciting offer to play and study at Dartmouth.
AIDAN BENNETT: How did you get into basketball and when?
ISAAC LETOA: I started playing basketball for a Chinese association called Dragons in Wellington at about the age of three.
AB: What basketball have you been playing since you featured on the cover of Channel last year?
IL: Last year I got the chance to play for the New Zealand Under 18 3x3 team in Kazakhstan, then was fortunate enough to be invited to Adidas Nations, a sponsored basketball tournament in Long Beach California. To cap the year off I played in the FIBA World Champs qualifying tournament for the Junior Tall Blacks in Fiji. Currently I’m training with the Wellington Saints NBL team.
AB: Apart from Westlake Boys, where else did you go to school?
IL: Raumati Beach School, Mount Cook Primary, and then Wellington College for two years before moving up to Auckland.
AB: Do you have a favourite player who inspires you?
IL: Honestly, no.
AB: What do you know about the Ivy League school (Dartmouth College) that you are going to?
IL: It’s a relatively small Ivy League school based in New Hampshire. Over 90% of the students live on campus which is pretty rare. I was lucky enough to do a visit and see the facilities which are amazing. There are huge grounds and gyms for each sport, their own golf course and ski mountain and their Engineering Faculty buildings were petty impressive. I did my research and realised pretty quickly that a degree from an Ivy League school could open up so many doors for me in the future. Their Alumni system is so well respected in the States and in many parts of the world. I felt like I would never regret this choice.
AB: What will you be studying?
IL: Engineering (papers relating to Product/Industrial Design).
AB: What level of basketball will you be playing in the US?
IL: NCAA, Division One.
AB: Any nerves about going out into the big wide world?
IL: I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, more excited. This is a massive opportunity and I look forward to embracing everything that comes with it.
AB: What are your career ambitions – sport and other things?
IL: I’ve always aspired to play the sport professionally - wherever my talents/ability takes me. However, I’m well aware of the lack of longevity and reliability of such a career, hence why I’ve decided to attend a Ivy League school to make sure I come out of college with good options.
AB: Complete the following… in 20 years I want to be…
IL: To be honest it’s really hard to look that far in to the future. At the moment I’ve got my eyes set on the next four years max. Hopefully that will set me up with a variety of choices 20 years from now.
Channel Magazine: Issue 76 May 2017