2019 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Media Day

Tuesday, Oct. 8 | #Pac12Hoops
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2019 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Media Day: UW's Sam Timmins part of rising Kiwi contingent in basketball

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Australia certainly made a name for itself as a basketball powerhouse, reaching the semifinals of the 2019 FIBA World Cup and finishing in fourth place, but it’s not the only Oceania side making waves in hoops. Players like Steven Adams and current Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks have paved the way for New Zealand basketball onto the international scene. Former Washington State Cougar Aron Baynes is also from New Zealand, but he plays for the Australian national team. 

The Kiwi presence is especially felt in college basketball. According to RealGM, 19 NCAA Division I men’s basketball players come from New Zealand. Outside of North America, only Australia, France, Nigeria and Serbia have larger contingents.

Washington’s Sam Timmins is one such New Zealander who has made his way stateside, and he figures to have a major role for a Husky team picked to finish third in the Pac-12 and make a repeat run to the NCAA Tournament.

“I think Sammy has really improved,” Washington head coach Mike Hopkins said at 2019 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day. “He knows the system and when you have a team with a lot of young guys, he’s been able to help them learn the system quickly. He should have a great year.”

Timmins, a senior who has improved his field goal percentage each of his first three years at Washington, isn’t afraid to get the dirty work done. Part of his willingness to get rough and rugged is due to his rugby background. Heavily involved in the sport until the age of 12, Timmins grew up idolizing the New Zealand All Blacks national rugby team. His father, Brendon, was a professional rugby player as well.

“[Toughness] is a characteristic of all Kiwi basketball players. The majority of us grew up playing rugby, so it just kind of instills a physicality to our game,” Timmins said. “At the very least, I’m not afraid of physicality, and it’s probably because of rugby.”

A native of Dunedin, Timmins has seen the interest in basketball grow exponentially in his home country.

“The basketball in terms of high school participation is the highest it has ever been in New Zealand, and every time I go home, younger kids from where I’m from and across the country are super passionate about basketball,” he said. “They all know who the big recruits are coming into college, which is cool because when I was younger, that wasn’t as big of a thing, so it’s cool to see the development of the game back home.”

Heading into his senior year, Timmins looks to be a leader for the Huskies.

“What Sammy is he’s just a great teammate. He’s got a lot of talent but his leadership ability, understands the system and he just wants to win,” Hopkins said. “And that’s the culture we’re trying to create at Washington. And he’s been a great example of that, especially for the young guys.”