Sumner teen heading to international basketball debut

BALANCE: Successful sportswoman and 7th Form Middleton Grange student Sofia Kennedy is balancing basketball with academics after being selected for the Junior Tall Ferns.

Sumner’s Sofia Kennedy is finally set to take her first step onto the basketball court wearing the silver fern.

Last week the 18-year-old was told she would be playing for the Junior Tall Ferns at the FIBA Asia championships in Bangalore, India, next month.

“I was actually selected [earlier this year] as a reserve, but one of the other players became unavailable,” she said.

“It will be my first actual New Zealand basketball representation. It feels good to be able to finally put on the silver fern.”

Sofia also competed at the cross-country world championships in Paris in February and then at the Australian cross-country championships on the Sunshine Coast last month. She finished 16th at the Australian champs.

“It’s been a big year and hard at times to balance two sports, leadership roles at school and academics. But it has been rewarding.”

Sofia’s first big basketball tournament was the national under-13s in 2012, where she played for the Canterbury B side.

“I was getting pretty discouraged, but I slowly
kept going at it and kept training.”

That perseverance paid off and, in 2016, she was invited to a Canterbury Wildcats training camp.

“It was pretty daunting. I felt out of my depth, but I figured I had nothing to lose.”

The year 13 Middleton Grange student then took that same attitude to an invitational secondary school high-performance training camp this month hosted by Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams in Palmerston North.

It was her performance there that secured her Junior Tall Ferns spot.

“It was just good to play with other top players and adapt to other coaches. You have to adapt and just go hard.”

She said the main lesson the young players learned was “to put everything out there on the court.”

Last month Sofia got her first taste of the international game while playing for the Wildcats against a visiting Hawaii University side.

She said it gave her perspective on the United States game.

The Wildcats lost the game by only four points.

“It was good to get a gauge on American basketball styles and to see [winning against them] was doable.”