Aching arms may have come with the territory, but the Hauraki Heat Basketball team’s valiant effort to shoot continuous free-throws over a 24-hour period also scored them more than $5000 towards a trip of a lifetime.
Between 3pm on Saturday, November 18 and 3pm on Sunday, November 19, the Hauraki Heat squad undertook the unique fundraiser, which had been a “childhood dream” of coach Rory Vitasovich.
“When I was 11, there was nothing more I could think of than basketball, and now being older I thought my dream could be these boys’ reality,” he said.
The teammates are trying to get themselves over to Los Angeles in 2025 to play basketball against three different high schools – a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to play the popular sport in the USA.
“We would also be able to watch the Los Angeles Lakers and take in the California experience,” Rory said.
The team is made up of 15 and 16-year-olds from Hauraki Plains College, as well as Rory’s youngest son, 13-year-old Dayton. During the 24-hour free-throw-athon, nine players shot consistently in 20 minute blocks.
They opened the challenge up to the public on Sunday and had around 10 members of the community come and shoot in blocks of 10 minutes.
“The most difficult part of the challenge was the block between 6am until 9am as the boy’s arms were feeling it by then, but having family and community support show up at 10am helped inspire them to make it through,” Rory said.
“The most productive part was between 1am and 4am where the boys got on a roll, and Ryan Tagomoa managed to get 24 in a row and finish the challenge with 75 per cent accuracy over 1800 shots. Also around that time we were having streaks of 20, 18, 15, and a whole heap of eights in a row.
“I am extremely proud of these young men who showed a whole heap of mental toughness and supported each other the entire time.”
Rory, a basketball player himself, said he had always taken pride in his own free-throws, which are unopposed attempts to score points by shooting from behind the free-throw line.
“If you ask the boys what the coach says, it will be: ‘The free throw is the most important shot in the game’. They are way better free-throw shooters now and all of them improved each time they stepped to the line,” he said.
The squad managed to raise around $5500 undertaking the challenge and Rory said they would like to thank all those who sponsored the boys.
“We still have a fair way to go but are confident we will make it,” he said. “We are available to do any odd job around the community for sponsorship, like painting, fire wood, help on farms, lawn mowing, anything that needs to be done.
“I would also like to thank Cindy Saxon and Karma Vitasovich, who helped make this possible but also again to the boys, who I believe embody the essence of teamwork and toughness.”
DETAILS: To help with sponsorship and getting Hauraki Heat to the USA, contact the team by finding Hauraki Heat Basketball on Facebook or contact Rory on 027 200 4413.
BY KELLEY TANTAU