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US$100K Scholarship For NZ Hoop-Shooting Hopeful

For release: 13 June 2007

US$100,000 scholarship for NZ hoop-shooting hopeful

First Success for New Basketball Career Path

Charlie Piho heading towards a life-changing encounter

Charlie Piho had no idea he was heading towards a life-changing encounter, when he strode onto Youthtown's Nelson Street basketball court one morning in February this year, for a pre-work, hoop-shooting session.

The 21-year-old from Epsom was spotted by coach Theo Tait and asked what plans he had for developing his basketball. This conversation led to Charlie becoming part of Youthtown's new 'High Performance' programme for career development in the sport.

As a result, he has now been granted a Basketball Scholarship, worth US$100, 000, over four years, at Bruton Parker University in Alabama.

"This scholarship is the realisation of a long-standing dream, to play college basketball in the United States and to then, hopefully, make a career in the sport.

"I've been involved with basketball since I was a five-year-old in Dunedin and have always hoped for a future in the game. But the scholarship goes way beyond my expectations," says the former call-centre employee.

"America has the best players in the world and the best systems. Just to be exposed to that environment will teach me a great deal. But the scholarship will also allow me to gain a good degree, so that I've got something to turn to when my playing days are over.

"My parents always wanted me to go to college, graduate and get a good steady job, whilst I wanted to play basketball. So now we're all happy, despite my mum shedding a few tears about me going so far from home," he says.

Youthtown's Executive Director, Keith Thorpe, describes Charlie as an outstanding young player, adding that he's likely to be the first of many to benefit from the High Performance programme, initiated in October 2006.

"At Youthtown, we have a long history of encouraging young people to play basketball but, until last year, we weren't able to help them towards a career path in the sport.

"Now, however, we can call on team members with extensive United States basketball experience, who can steer our youthful talent in the right direction. Such guidance and support can be crucial in ensuring promising youngsters make choices that help rather than hinder them in their search for scholarships.

"Our ability to assist promising players has also been strengthened by our new partnership with the former Auckland Stars, who now play under the name of the 'Youthtown Stars'. Charlie is currently benefiting from this linkage, through honing his skills as an unpaid Stars player," he adds.

Pending his departure for the United States, Charlie Piho is also working for a Youthtown programme providing basketball coaching in Auckland schools, in association with Stars' owner, Tab Baldwin's 'Classic Hoops' organisation.

According to Tab Baldwin, Charlie is an "intelligent, mature and well-mannered young man and a great asset to the Stars".

"Without doubt he's the kind of player we love to have within our fold. But the Stars are also excited about what Charlie has ahead of him in the United States. We love to see our players growing beyond what we're capable of doing for them and we'd also be very happy to see Charlie back playing in New Zealand some day.

"There are plenty of kids who have discovered their passion for basketball at Youthtown and have learned some great skills there. The marriage between Youthtown and the Stars is taking this process a significant step further. It's exciting to be part of this development," says the former Tall Blacks coach.

Long known as 'Auckland's home of basketball, Youthtown is a not-for-profit organisation that helps young people express themselves, develop skills and build self-esteem, in safe, open and stimulating environments.


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