Even the bravest of gamblers would have struggled to put money on Aaliyah Ah Kiong's chances of making the New Zealand under-19 girls' basketball team.
After all, the Hastings Girls High School student is just 16, and when she trialled for the team in Dunedin last month, Ah Kiong was running at only 50 per cent, courtesy of an ankle sprain collected three weeks before the trial.
Point guard Ah Kiong was invited to trial only when the national side's coaching staff, including former Hawks and Otago NBL player Brent Matehaere, realised the guards they had originally selected weren't ticking the boxes.
"I explained to Brent about my injury but he still urged me to travel down for the trial. I was rested for one of the trainings but played two games against Otago Boys High School and managed to show some of my skills despite playing to 50 per cent of my ability," Ah Kiong said.
If there was some sideline gambling going on regarding who would be selected and who wouldn't, those who did a bit of research into Ah Kiong's whakapapa may have been rewarded. She is the daughter of former New Zealand age-group representative Cheleme Smiler-Ah Kiong, who made the New Zealand under-20s as a 15-year-old, and a niece of the former Hawks Tzar and Czebalos Smiler.
The only Hawke's Bay player to be selected for the New Zealand under-17 and under-19 girls' teams, Ah Kiong won the MVP award at the July national under-17 girls tournament after some classy performances for a Bay team who finished second to North Harbour.
The Kiwi under-17 team will travel to Melbourne in November for the Oceania Championships.
By then Ah Kiong will have had plenty of international play for the Junior Tall Ferns, who play three "tests" against their Aussie counterparts in Porirua from September 20-22.
"This is an Oceania qualifier for the world championships in Lithuania, and if we beat the Aussies we will qualify," Ah Kiong said.
She has played against Australian age group teams in the past and rates the Junior Tall Ferns' chances of qualifying as high.
"We will have a five-day camp before the games so will be pretty well prepared," Ah Kiong said.
"Obviously I want to play well enough to retain my spot in the team for the next two years. The long-term goal is to play for the Tall Ferns at the Rio Olympics," she said.
Ah Kiong believed a US basketball scholarship similar to the one scored this year by another of the Bay's national age group representatives, Josie Stockill, would enhance her chances of making it into the Tall Ferns in the future.
"Like Josie, I will probably have to play for either New Plymouth or Wellington in the women's NBL to improve my standard of play."
She was a member of the Hastings Girls' High School team who beat Napier Girls' High School in the final of the Hawke's Bay Secondary Schools competition. This week the side, who are coached by her grandfather Wyn Smiler, were on track for a top-four finish at their regional premiership in New Plymouth, which would qualify them for the national finals in Nelson next month.
Hastings Girls' High School haven't won the national title since her mother played for the team in the mid-1990s.
From next year, Ah Kiong intends to emulate another of Stockill's feats by playing in the Bay men's club competition in an effort to toughen up. She would mark players of the calibre of Hawks point guard Aidan Daly.
In addition to her basketball commitments, Ah Kiong, who is eyeing a career as a physical education teacher, also played netball for Hastings Girls' High School's top team who lost the Hawke's Bay final to Sacred Heart College. She also played alongside her mother for Physique in the Hawke's Bay Premier League.
"This was mainly for fitness."
Superior fitness will be a must for Ah Kiong and her Junior Tall Ferns teammates if they are going to beat the Australians this month.