Kia Ora Magazine - Lilly Taulelei
Posted on Sunday, 17 September 2023 under Kia Ora Magazine Articles
At 18 years old, the Tokomanawa Queens’ Lilly Taulelei is the youngest player to ever compete in New Zealand’s National Women’s Basketball League. She talks to us about her meteoric rise, her goals for the future, and the important role of beef and lamb in peak performance.
Lilly, tell us about your background in basketball…
Basketball has been a major part of my life over recent years. I was selected for the New Zealand U14 girls' team that won gold in Melbourne, and in 2019 I was the first female in NZ Basketball history to make the Junior NBA Global Championship as captain of the Junior Asia Pacific team. I also played last year for the Tokomanawa Queens in the inaugural season of New Zealand’s women’s league. I owe a lot to my parents, who have always supported my dreams and are helping me achieve my goals.
You were the youngest player to play in the New Zealand’s Women’s National Basketball League. How did that feel?
It was certainly a huge honour! As a 15-year-old it was a great league to be part of…a privilege.
Do the Queens feel added pressure as the reigning champions?
I wouldn’t call it pressure – but it’s a big motivating factor. We’ve got a very competitive and capable group of women, and we really believe this is the start of our legacy as a team. We are certainly determined to repeat last year’s success and take our game to a new level in the process.
What does a typical week as a professional basketballer look like?
The Queens train on court four days a week. Outside of those sessions we have at least two gym sessions where we work on strength and cardio. Then of course there are the game days as well. When there is time off, you’ll normally find me getting some shots up – it’s pretty much non-stop basketball.
ANZCO Foods is the Pounamu sponsor of the Queens, helping the team achieve peak performance through nutrition and good health. How important is nutrition in achieving your goals?
Managing my nutrition has been a huge learning curve for me. When I was younger, I didn’t understand the role of nutrition, but as an athlete I now realise how important it is to perform at my best. A diet including beef and lamb, which is rich in iron and protein, is critical for recovery after a tough training session and for the fuel I need to get me ready to perform on court. I’ve learnt that your performance on the court is reliant on doing the little things right off the court, including how you train and how you eat. When you eat well, you feel well.
And when you feel well, you play well! Even if you’re not an athlete, I think it’s important for young women to get the protein and essential minerals and vitamins needed to be at their best. Beef and lamb from ANZCO Foods can be one way of meeting those needs, which is why I am so pleased ANZCO Foods are a partner this year.
What are your go-to meals to cook?
I keep things pretty simple – you can’t beat a nice steak with mashed potatoes and loads of vegetables. I also love a quick beef stir-fry, and I can’t say no to lamb chops.
I do enjoy being in the kitchen, but I have to admit that there’s still nothing quite like Mum’s home cooked meals.
What does the future hold?
I’m heading to the US to begin a scholarship at the University of Massachusetts, where I’ll be studying business marketing and sociology as well as playing basketball. It’s an incredible opportunity, so I really want to make sure I make the most of it. Looking ahead, I want to represent the Tall Ferns and win more titles with the Queens. Ultimately, I want to play basketball professionally for as long as I can – whether that be in Aotearoa, Europe, or the WNBA in America.
And finally, what advice would you give to young girls inspired by your story?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – it’s the best way to learn. Just dive in and give it a go. And make sure you’re having plenty of fun along the way!
“Even if you’re not an athlete, I think it’s important for young women to get the protein and essential minerals and vitamins needed to be at their best”
Foward for the Tokomanawa Queens