Sport | Basketball

Māori college basketball star shifts focus to March Madness after national title win

Tall Fern Charlisse Leger-Walker is back in the United States and continues to shine in college basketball as point guard for the Washington State Cougars.

The team posted an historic win this week, finally winning a national women's basketball title, the PAC-12 Championship, in which Leger-Walker was named the most outstanding player.

"Washington State has never won a PAC-12 Championship before in any women's sport," she says. "That's something I didn't realise at first or understand just how big it was for Washington State.

"It's one of many conferences in college basketball and it's considered to be, this year, the strongest conference. There are 12 teams within it and every team from top to bottom is so, so good."

Although the Whakatōhea and Ngāti Porou basketball star has seen success in her world, the pursuit of knowledge remains at the forefront of her mind.

"I'm studying business management right now. I still have an extra year to go, so two more semesters, then I should be on track to graduate within spring next year."

Scoring in and out of the paint, Charlisse is ready for more basketball action.

March Madness

While also a student in the classroom, at 21 years old, she is also studying the game.

"I think it's more just those individual skills, refining how consistently I shoot the ball, my ball handling, my ability to passes and open reads. And we have great player development coaches here."

During the 65-61 victory over the UCLA Bruins a few days ago, as well as becoming the most outstanding player for the game, she scored the most points for her team with 23, seven rebounds and three assists on the court.

Since the historic win, the Washington State Cougars cemented their place in the March Madness Tournament where they'll go up against the country's top college teams, tipping off on March 14, with barely time to rest.

"This tournament is huge and will be a big one for our team, especially coming off the back of the PAC-12 Championship, a lot of eyes will be on us.

"It's really hard to win at this tournament. We have to be on top of our game, we can't be complacent. The team that we face this Sunday is going to be good, no matter who it is. We just have to be so locked in and ready to go."