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EXCLUSIVE Interview with Michael Whippy (National Team coach) - Jan 21, 2007

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We discussed with Michael Whippy, coach of the Fiji Men team in the 2006 FIBA Oceania Youth Tournament and coach of the Fiji Women team in the upcoming 2007 South Pacific Games. We talked about his experience, about the state of basketball in the country and about his family.

Since how many years are you a basketball coach in Fiji?
I first coached nationally at the 1999 Guam SPG. I was an assistant to the mens head coach.

You're family features many Fiji national rep like your daughters Mikaelar and Letava. How do you explain that?
Having played and enjoyed the game at international level, the switch to coaching was an easy one. I met my wife Caroline on the basketball court so it was only natural that our children grew up in the gym.

Who is the next great player coming from your family?
My nephews are developing well and with their exposure in NZ, last year and this year, they will be contributors to our national program in a few years time. Letava works hard on her game and will also continue to develop if she keeps up this work ethic.

If you had an unlimitted amount of money, what would you change in Fiji basketball?
I would build an indoor basketball facility in every town, throughout the islands, run a year round semi-pro national club league, run a year long secondary school league and build a national basketball institute.

The country is having some political issues in the past monthes, how does that affect the sport there?
Sport is the least affected. In fact the current political crises has resulted in sports people devoting more time to their respective disciplines to take their attention away from the ploitics.

You were the coach of Fiji's team in the last FIBA Oceania Youth tournament. What is your review about this tournament?
I actually coached the mens team but our women did exceptionally well in the tournament considring it was a first time for most of the athletes at an international competition. The tournament was great. The kids forged what will be some life long freindships with athletes from other countries and the oppurtunity to play and learn more about the game was well worth the expense of going there.

Which were the best players in your team?
In the womens team I think that all the girls played above themselves. Success for each player at tournaments like this cannot sometimes be measured by the stats that they put up. For some of them, just wearing the black and white or just playing against youth of other nations would have been a highlight for them. The athletes who did standout however did so because of their past experience in international tournaments.

How do you handle the fact that you're coaching your daughter Letava too?
I treat Letava like any of the other national players. Sometimes because she is my daughter, I think I push her too hard.

Many fijians are living in New Zealand and Australia. Do you know if some of them might be valuable addition for Fiji NT?
I have a fair idea of the players of fijian descent in Australia and new Zealand. Unfortunately they cannot represent Fiji unless they hold a Fijian passport. If this criteria is relaxed then I believe that we could have quite formidable men and women NTs.

What will be Fiji goals in the 2007 South Pacific Games?
My goal for the women is to play to our potential. I believe that if we can do this consistently, we will be in the final game.

Did you already start to think about your roster for the Games?
I have been thinking about this since I started preparing the squad in august 2006.

Apart from Letava, who is the best player under 18 in Fiji  

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