SYDNEY, NS — When Maia Watling began playing basketball, she knew she wanted to further her career overseas some day.
The Palmerston North, New Zealand, athlete had her dreams come true when she was recruited to play for Cape Breton University in the Atlantic University Sport.
"Talking to Fabian McKenzie and seeing what CBU had to offer on and off the court really embodied my values and aspirations," said Watling. "I'm really enjoying my time here in Cape Breton and have learned so much already."
Watling, 19, was discovered by the Capers through Custom College Recruiting, a recruiting system in which basketball footage is shared with university coaches around the world.
"Fabian was able to see me play and got in contact with me," said Watling. "We were in contact via email and Skype and through this, we were able to get to know each other and I was able to learn about what the CBU program had to offer me."
Growing up, Watling's main sport was netball and she didn't start playing basketball until her high school years.
"As I continued to play I seemed to really enjoy playing basketball a lot more, which in the long run caused me to focus mainly on basketball," said Watling.
"My coach back home, Mike Pierce, exposed me to wider opportunities so I could achieve through basketball that weren't necessarily available in other sports I was playing."
- Hometown: Palmerston North, New Zealand
- Age: 19
- Position: Forward
- Height: 6'3"
- She has played basketball for six years
- She is in his first season with the Cape Breton Capers women's basketball team
- Watling is enrolled in the bachelor of arts program at the Sydney university
Following her high school career, Watling played in the Manawatu Basketball Association and also played on New Zealand's national under-16 and under-17 teams at the Oceania Championship. She also suited up for Taranaki Thunder of the WBC league.
Although she's 15,569 kilometres away from home, Watling said Cape Breton has similarities to New Zealand, which has made the adjustment to Canada a lot easier.
"The people are very friendly," said the forward. "Fabian has emphasized the importance of wearing the Capers jersey and how it's more than just a number on your back, so I know I'm playing for something bigger than myself and It's a real honour."
"There isn't the same amount of funding and opportunities to play in New Zealand as there are here," said Watling, who's enrolled in the bachelor of arts program at CBU.
"It's definitely growing as a sport and we are seeing many more people wanting to play the game."
Watling, who is currently out of the Capers lineup with an injury, has appeared in eight games this season and is averaging 2.9 points per game and 1.8 rebounds.
"It was definitely a step up from what I was used to, and I had to adjust the way I was playing as the game is much faster," said Watling.
"It's been a learning year for me, but I feel I have grown as a player, especially playing with Hannah (Brown) this year as she has taught me so much already just playing against her in practice."
Along with her hard work on and off the court, Watling credits her parents and coaches for getting her where she is today with the Capers.
"My parents have always supported me as well as my community," said Watling. "My coaches, especially Pierce and Michelle Swain, taught me everything I know and shaped me into the player I am today – I wouldn't be here without them."
Both the Capers men's and women's teams will be in action this weekend. The clubs will travel to play Saint Mary's on Friday and Acadia University on Saturday. Women tip off at 6 pm and men at 8 pm. All the action can be found on AUStv.cahost the Dalhousie Tigers tonight and Sunday.