The 2018 Commonwealth Games got underway on Wednesday last week on the Gold Coast, where St Peter’s student Charlisse Leger-Walker is playing in the New Zealand women’s basketball team.
At 16 years old Charlisse is officially the youngest player to represent the Tall Ferns, and the third member of her family to represent New Zealand at senior level. The Year 12 student’s first game with the NZ team was set for April 5 against Malaysia in Cairns.
Heading into the event, Charlisse said she was “just super stoked and super happy to have gotten an opportunity as big and as great as this one”. “My first reaction was, ‘oh my god really?’ when I was on the phone to my coach who had just told me the exciting news,” she said. “I was just overwhelmed with excitement.”
Charlisse’s sister Krystal, now a sophmore guard at the University of Northern Colorado, also debuted for the Tall Ferns as a teenager in 2014. Her mother Leanne, now a teacher at St Peter’s School, was a member of the Tall Ferns at the 1990 and 1994 Olympics.
“My mum was really excited. She has a bit of a poker face, but beneath that seriousness she was really happy. I told Krystal straight away as she was asking me every day if I was in the team, she is so excited that I am going to the Commonwealth Games.”
“You could say I was almost destined to play basketball,” said Charlisse, who has been playing basketball since the age of three. “I was brought up in the gym always playing with a basketball, then always going to my older sister Krystal’s trainings and eventually making up numbers,” she explained.
“Being able to see the highest level of basketball being played and learning as much as I can is so exciting,” she said.
Just a few days out from the competition, Charlisse said the harsh Australian heat would “definitely be a challenge”. “However, coming over early and training in it prior to the competition will be a huge bonus,” she said. “And a personal challenge will be to just get out there and play, to not get caught up with how talented and athletic the players are and to just be confident and do my thing.”
“Amazingly Charlisse is only 16 years old, but she plays with the poise of a much older player and is a very clever playmaker,” said Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy.
The Commonwealth Games continue until April 15.