24 - 30
June 2022
8 Azaleeah Oloapu (SAM)
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Oloapu wishes Samoa basketball can ''become as big as Australia'' after going on historic run

AMMAN (Jordan) - Azaleeah Oloapu has witnessed how huge basketball is in Australia, and that is exactly what she hopes to see in her motherland.

The 17-year-old aspires for the sport to grow in Samoa, and she's undeniably part of how that kind of future will grow with the way her team is representing the nation in the ongoing FIBA U16 Women's Asian Championship 2022 Division B.

"I'm just very proud of the girls and how they play lately, and as a team I think we have a great chance of making it to the Final."


"I live in Australia, where basketball is very strong over there, so there's a lot of people who support and encourage it. But in Samoa, there's not very many people who play basketball or know how to play basketball," she said.

"[My goal for] Samoa basketball is to become as big as Australia's basketball and to encourage more girls to keep playing basketball."

Oloapu is in her first appearance - with perhaps more to come - with the national team, and she isn't shy to admit that there's pressure being the team captain as her batch tries to usher in a new era of Samoan basketball.

"There's a bit of pressure," she said. "Coming from Samoa, basketball is not very strong, so I think that's a little bit of pressure. But I think it's a good experience for us all in creating the future of basketball in Samoa."

With the way she has been performing, though, you'd think she's not feeling any pressure whatsoever. Oloapu is currently averaging 12.0 points on 52.9 percent shooting, 9.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game, including a 14-point, 11-rebound outing in their 57-48 win over Indonesia during the Group Phase.

"I think in the last few games, as captain, I've been doing very well in trying to stay positive within the girls and trying to keep my head up so the girls can continue to stay positive," she offered.

Oloapu and Co. on Tuesday night made history following their 54-51 victory over Kazakhstan in a down-to-the-wire affair to reach the Semi-Finals.

That, basically, is the biggest win by the country on any stage in recent history, as the first-timers accomplished what no other Samoan national team had done - whether it's the senior men's or women's national teams.

They will be up against the undefeated Philippines next, but morale is sky-high for Oloapu and her squad as they aim to go all the way and further stamp their class in the annals of Samoa's basketball history.

"I'm just very positive that we can make it," the 1.80 M (5'11") center offered. "I'm just very proud of the girls and how they play lately, and as a team I think we have a great chance of making it to the Final."