Mana Basketball – Going Back to Move Forward
Porirua is a hotbed of Wellington sporting talent with countless personalities enjoying success at the national and international levels. In 2020 a new generation of Porirua athletes are making waves at high school and may one day themselves become household names. College Sport Wellington went on tour to meet some of these outstanding young talents.
Mana College sport has lifted itself out of the doldrums. In 2015 the school was placed in statutory management to address a series of management issues.
Today the role is rising and the Premier Boys and Girls basketball and Boys First XV rugby teams are back in the top grades.
The improvement in basketball is being driven by a remarkably close connection to the past. In 2010 Mana were runners up to Fraser High School at Nationals. Tall Black Jordan Ngati(currently handing out posters in the NZNBL), whose portrait is proudly displayed in the Mana gym, was a member of that team. His cousin and national basketball league regular Hyrum Hippolite was also on that roster.
Fast forward a decade and Hyrum’s younger brother Kawharu Hippolite is at point guard. To cut a long story short, connections with other players means that every player in the starting five depicted in the photo above is a cousin of Jordan Ngati.
Randall Bishop is the head coach. He played for Mana in 2005 when they were also National runners-up. He kicked on to play for the Saints and later won two Jubilee Cups with the Tawa rugby club. He’s in his fourth season of mentoring Mana.
“It was sad to see the decline, but there was never any question about talent. I’ve always wanted to give back to the community so that’s why I got involved,” he explained.
“It’s not just me involved. Tu Umaga-Marshall is helping out with a whole lot of others. Our goal is to recapture some of the past to help create a better future.”
The theory is already working a treat. Mana have qualified for the Pohlen Trophy following three victories over Wellington College II (127-61), Hutt Valley High School (104-62) and Wainuiomata High School (73-53).
Kawharu Hippolite exploded with 42 points against Wellington while Nathaniel Salmon top-scored with 38 and 31 points in the next two victories. Nathaniel is the younger brother of Klein Salmon, a member of the Rongotai College team that won the Pohlen trophy for the first time in two decades in 2018.
The top two teams after the Pohlen Trophy round-robin automatically qualify for Nationals. Mana is not content to make up the numbers in the capital and hit the road in the school holidays to test themselves against highly rated national opposition.
Despite defeats to Rotorua Boys’ High School, Fraser High School, and St John’s College, Hamilton, Bishop insists the tour was “educational.”
“We lost to Frazer by 15 and let’s just say we got an old fashioned hiding from St John’s, but we learned a lot from that game. St John’s are probably one of the best teams in the nation right now,” he said.
Kawharu Hippolite plays with a natural swagger that comes from many one-on-one games with Jordan Ngati. A member of the Saints wider training squad he says his favourite player is NBA superstar Kyrie Irving.
Of Ngati Toa affiliation he says Mana’s style is characterized by “speed,” and “hard work.”
Mana’s senior girls Basketball team also qualified for the 2020 Premier Sharp cup.
Note: On July 4 Mana’s First XV defeated Hutt International Boys’ School 19-12 to qualify for the Premier I grade for the first time since All Black TJ Perenara was wearing green and yellow hoops in 2010.
2020 Photo (Left)
Bottom Right: Nathaniel Salmon (Year 12)
Bottom Left: Randall Paenga (Year 12)
On Basket: Levi Ware (Year 12)
Top Left Hoop: Kawhuru Hippolite (Year 13)
Top Middle: Evan Paenga (Year 10)
Top Right: Devonte Hunia (Year 12)
2010: (From left front) Isaac Torea, Vincent Rouru, Jordan Ngatai, (and up above) Clint Whitikia-Tuere, Hyrum Hippolite, and Ryan Taurima.
-Story courtesy of College Sport Media