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12 Moana Liebregts (FIJ)
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Liebregts, Fiji U15 squad paving the way for Women's Fiji basketball

PAPUA NEW GUINEA (FIBA U15 Oceania Championship) - Before flying to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, at least half of the Fiji U15 squad has never boarded a plane in their life. Now, they are running all over the humid temperature inside the world-class Taurama Indoor Centre representing their country in the first-ever FIBA U15 Oceania Championship.

Team Manager Apenisa Naitani is well aware of the magnitude of this opportunity for their team and the future of women's basketball in their country.

“It’s a first to be a part of a tournament (Under 15) like this for our country. So whatever happens here it just sets precedence to all the other young women in Fiji that they can be part of this” said Naitini.

“Hopefully by the end of this week we will be eligible for the U16 Asian tournament which is another step from the Oceania event for us to achieve that is paving the way for the younger generation and younger girls in Fiji," he added.

Fiji had a goal mind and accomplished it after their fourth-place finish which qualifies them to Division B of the FIBA U16 Asian Championship next year.

The one leading the charge for the U15 Fiji team is team captain Moana Liebregts who also represents her country as an open water swimmer and recently represented Fiji in the 2018 Pan Pacific Swimming Championship.

"I have a supportive family with three older brothers who played for the country in basketball. I think the thing that motivates me is to keep the spirit high in both sports and I’m enjoying it," said Liebregts.

Despite the tight schedule in maintaining her competitiveness in two different disciplines, the 5'10 skipper acknowledged the challenge while also relishing the honor of representing her country.

“It's a tough experience, it's not easy as well, there are different pieces of training and different levels of expectations that consists from both the sports, but I am very blessed to be able to do both," said Liebregts who averaged 6.2 ppg and 6.8 rpg for her team.

With more challenges ahead for the team specifically the FIBA U16 Asian Championship looming next year, Liebregts believes the experience of facing Australia and New Zealand will only help them prepare for the future.

"It's a real eye-opening experience for us (this tournament, it's not every day that you get to come and play against countries like New Zealand and Australia. said Liebregts. "I know other Pacific island countries are not at their level yet because we don't have that many facilities as they do but we're all learning from it, and we're enjoying playing against them."