Semika Chong Nee: ''I love being able to represent Samoa and it’s something I hope I can continue to do''
APIA (Samoa) - The last time Samoa were on the podium in men's basketball at the Pacific Games was back in 2007. They finished third place at home in Apia with a win over New Caledonia.
Semika Chong Nee was only a one-year-old baby at the time.
"I hope that our playing can inspire the next generation to know that there are more sports out there than just rugby."
16 years later, after having represented the nation for the first time only last month at the FIBA U17 Oceania Championship, Chong Nee is expected to make his debut at the senior national team level and play in his first-ever Pacific Games.
Samoa and Chong Nee got their own bronze medal at the U17 Oceania Championship at Port Moresby last month. Whether they'll be able to do so again in the Pacific Games at the Solomon Islands will be determined in the very near future, but for now, Chong Nee is purely elated to be a part of the ride.
"It's a great feeling being able to represent Samoa at the Pacific Games, being the youngest on the team and having more experienced players to learn different skills from and help build on the foundations I have has been game-changing for me," expressed the promising youngster who averaged 17.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game for the U17 squad. "I'm so excited coming off a successful U17 campaign in Papua New Guinea where our team came third and I can't wait to continue that success. I am looking forward to playing against the other nations in the Pacific Games."
It's not only about playing at the Pacific Games or even playing for the senior national team that fills Chong Nee with pride. It's any chance he gets to represent Samoa. If it just happens to be at the Pacific Games where they are aiming to get back on the podium, that's an added bonus.
"Being able to represent Samoa wherever I go is a privilege I don’t take for granted," he said. "Being back in the motherland for our camp and reconnecting with all of my family I know I am blessed to have this opportunity. I know how much passion our Samoan people have and I feel it's a privilege for me being so young to represent this small country.
"I love being able to represent Samoa and it’s something I hope I can continue to do."
The pride of representing Samoa should not come as a surprise. The people of Samoa are known to be proud to represent the islands, although it is generally expressed on the rugby pitch. Chong Nee's quest is to make the hardwood his own stage to put Samoa on the map - in hopes of inspiring the next wave of talents to do the same in the future.
"My expectations are high for the future of Samoa basketball because I love this game so I want basketball to be up there with rugby," he said. "Samoans love their Rugby and I hope that our playing can inspire the next generation to know that there are more sports out there than just rugby.
"Polynesians have a natural athletic ability and growing basketball can only continue with the support of our people. I am hopeful for the future of basketball in Samoa and encourage anyone to come play and even come play me."