IUWBB: Wairau arrives in Bloomington

Laken Wairau, a 5-foot-9 guard from New Zealand, has arrived in Bloomington and will soon participate in practices as a member of the Indiana women’s basketball team.

According to one of her coaches in New Zealand, Lori McDaniel, Wairau was scheduled to arrive in the U.S. on Sunday. Because the Hoosiers have 11 scholarship players on the roster — and the maximum is 15 — they can add Wairau in the middle of the season.

Her addition came about rather quickly. McDaniel, who played for Moren when she was an assistant at Butler in the 1990s, said Moren offered about five weeks ago to add Wairau for the 2015-16 season. Since then, preparations have been made to clear Wairau’s arrival, including paperwork to attain a student visa.

Now the head coach for Canterbury of the Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) in New Zealand, McDaniel had made contact with Moren several months ago to tout WBC athletes. During a conversation, Moren mentioned that she was recruiting a player from New Zealand’s North Island, Kayla Manuirirangi, a 5-foot-7 guard who eventually committed to play for Tulane starting in August 2016.

McDaniel then mentioned Wairau, from the South Island in Christchurch.

“If you are looking for someone, actually, I have a girl here,” McDaniel said she told Moren.

Wairau was the leading scorer for Canterbury. The WBC consists of players from 15 years old to 28, and in the college basketball offseason that includes players like BYU’s Kalani Purcell and Cal’s Penina Davidson. At 5-foot-9, McDaniel praised Wairau’s basketball IQ, including her abilities as a passer and an outside shooter. She also called Wairau as an “effortless athlete,” most likely suited to play either off-guard or wing in college.

Wairau, who is 18 years old, is also in a position to join IU because the academic calendar in New Zealand runs from February to December. Her scholarship offer has been the subject of several reports by news media in New Zealand, including a local television piece on Dec. 24.

Because Wairau will, to a certain extent, be representing players from her home country, McDaniel had only one message for Wairau when she last met with her the day before Christmas. It was both lighthearted and somewhat serious, McDaniel said.

“Don’t mess it up for everyone else,” she told Wairau.

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