16-year-old cousins heading to US to chase NBA dreams

Kaia Berridge (left) and Kahu Treacher (right) are off to America to chase their basketball dreams.

Two teenage basketball prodigies from Whanganui and Hawke's Bay are embarking on life in the United States as they strive for their hoops dreams.

Kaia Berridge and Kahu Treacher are cousins, both 16-years-old and have a goal to turn their hobby into a profession.

Berridge, a 6-foot-3 point guard, will finish his schooling at Archbishop Riordan High School in San Francisco while Treacher, a 6-foot-8 forward, will attend St Albans in Washington DC.

The pair said the chance to play overseas while getting an education was too good to turn down.

“We’re just two Māori boys and we just didn’t expect it. Now we see that we can actually do something big,” Berridge said.

“It’s special. I remember when we were little and we’d play basketball together and now we both get to go over there and make our dreams happen, it’s crazy,” Treacher added.

Kahu Treacher is ready to take the next step in his basketball journey after being spotted by an American scout.

Treacher was spotted on social media by an American scout who watched him erupt for a dunk in an Auckland men’s league game.

He’s only just turned 16 and is a bottom-age player at the U17 level, winning various MVP awards at his previous school Hastings Boys' High School, and the Hawke's Bay U15 team. Those accolades helped him secure a sports scholarship to Auckland Grammar this year where he developed his game under former Tall Black Lindsay Tait.

Since the age of 11, he’s been working hard at his craft, fixated on his goal of going to the NBA.

His mum Aroha is excited to see her son taking the right steps towards that aspiration.

“This is what he’s wanted for such a long time. The biggest barrier for us was actually getting him to the United States. So when we got offered this opportunity, it opened up a pathway for him to get there,” she said.

“He’s put in four years of really hard work. It’s not easy to get up early in the morning in winter and to do all your trainings and then to do all the extras, then on top of that have your academics. So I’m really proud of him.”

Kaia Berridge attended the NBA's Basketball without Borders camp in Canberra.

Berridge was part of the New Zealand U17 team that played at the FIBA Asia Cup in Doha in June.

He was also one of eight Kiwis to attend the basketball without borders camp in Canberra in August which brings 60 of the best players under 18 from Asia and the Pacific together.

Berridge got to meet some of the NBA and WNBA players that led the event, and was named an All-Star.

International scout Stevie Cozens says it's an achievement that speaks volumes to how good he is.

“By making the All-Star team, he’s actually shown that he’s not just one of the best players in New Zealand, he’s actually one of the best players for his age in the entire world,” Cozens said.

He described Berridge as athletic with great playmaking ability and talent on defence, which will bode well for him as he tries to get on the College radar.

As for Treacher, he’s also got the dedication and unique abilities for his position.

“Early on, I knew that Kahu was determined. There are so few players that have that type of size and skill at that age. He’s really coordinated, strong and quick,” Cozens said.

Learning on and off the court

As well as playing for their respective high schools, Berridge and Treacher will also compete on the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) circuit with teams endorsed by big brands including the likes of Nike, Under Armour and Adidas.

Though their pathway is not common, the duo represent a wave of Kiwi youth travelling to American shores to take the high school route rather than college. This gives them a head start in adapting to the culture and building a community before going pro.

While they pursue big things on the court, they also know it’s important to remain focused on their studies - something Berridge’s father Paul believes will help them on their journey.

“To be successful, you’ve got to be successful in the classroom. Education is key for them on their journey and I think America does a really good job at that to hold the kids accountable,” he said.

“To be about it, you have to be in it. It’s not easy. I think the resilience that [Kaia] has built to get to where he is now is going to be the difference for him to be successful here.”

Cozens said that playing in America also means the teens will be exposed to top college coaches, making it easier for them to be scouted and developed.

“The schools that these kids are going to show just how talented they are.

“Potentially in the next few years, we could have some players drafted into the NBA from New Zealand.”

As he continues the grind, Berridge will be heeding the advice he received in Canberra.

“There are going to be struggles you’re going to have to go through. But they all said it’s not impossible, we can all do it,” Berridge said.

The pair hope this move will inspire other Kiwi kids to make their dreams a reality too, and they're ready to work, recognising that this step is just the beginning.

“Don’t be afraid to be different. Just do what you love,” is something Treacher likes to live by.

“I don’t like the thought of being average. I just want to have a life where I’m able to do something great with it.”


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