By Roisin Lamb
Like many young men in New Zealand, Josiah and Sione Maama grew up believing that the only sport worth playing was rugby. In fact, the two former Pakuranga College students came across basketball purely by chance.
As Josiah recalls, “One day, in Year 9, rugby training got cancelled as it was hailing so I went into the basketball gym to find shelter until my mum picked me up. To kill time I watched the basketball trials. Coach Reg Matenga thought I was a trialist and put me on the court. I had no shoes, just rugby boots, so I trialled in bare feet.”
And 13 seasons later, Josiah has travelled across the world coaching basketball, learning from some of the best and has met some big names in the sport.
Based in Auckland as head of basketball at Pakuranga College, he coaches the college’s boys’ 1st team and has been a part of the NZ Age Group, Development and Koru teams.
Not to be outdone, little brother Sione coaches Pakuranga College girls’ 1st team and is Head of Player Development at Tonga Basketball. He also coaches the Men’s Tongan team, which is currently preparing for the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.
As if this weren’t enough, the brothers also find time to run their own coaching academy, GI Rise Basketball, where they provide individual coaching for all skill levels, right up to professional.
The passion that both men have for basketball extends beyond its value as a sport.
As Josiah points out, “I think I’m more passionate about seeing people help themselves and others, especially youth. There were five of us and we didn’t have much growing up.
“We were raised by a single mother and we didn’t have a home of our own, so we moved a lot. Despite this, a lot of our team mates in rugby and basketball became mum’s adopted kids. So, for me, my passion behind basketball is to use it to help benefit youth through life lessons and opportunities – by opening doors.”
The basketball programme at Pakuranga College reflects these values, with players being encouraged to give back to the community through charity and volunteer work.
“We want to develop good basketball players”, says Josiah, “but, much more importantly, good young men and women in society. We pride ourselves on challenging our athletes to think for themselves and to play what’s in front of them.”
He adds, “We are trying to develop players who can go on and adapt and play in any other system or life situation, under any other coach, team or group, and be confident in doing so.”
The results of the brothers’ work certainly speak for themselves, with both Pakuranga College boys’ and girls’ 1st teams playing at Senior A grade and the college’s basketball programme growing to include 22 teams.
It’s also easy to see why the school’s basketball mantra is TFWH: Team, Family, Work Hard.