VandyMania. You're from New Zealand. I've heard that the nickname a New Zealander is a "Kiwi". I want to make sure that's not an insult!
Katie: No, it's a native indigenous animal.
VandyMania: Is that the most common nickname?
Katie: Yes, definitely. I'd refer to myself as a Kiwi. That's a good thing. I'm proud to be a Kiwi.
VandyMania: Can you give me a little background on the education system in New Zealand? What are the names and ages of the levels of school?
Katie: Kindergarten is 3-5. At 5 years old, you go to primary school. Primary goes until you're about 10.
VandyMania: What do you call the different levels?
Katie: The system has just changed, and now we call them "years", like "Year 1", "Year 2". That starts at primary school, Year 1 to Year 6. After that, you go to an intermediate school, which is year 7 and year 8. Then you go to a secondary school, a high school. Sometimes they're known as "colleges". I went to Nelson College for Girls. That's equivalent to a high school, so it's for people aged like 13 to 18.
VandyMania: OK, now your basketball history. When and where did you start playing basketball?
Katie: I started when I was about 12, playing for my school. I'd always been playing a lot of sports. I was very into netball, which you guys don't have here, and volleyball especially. And then in Form 2 -- which is the last year of intermediate, that's what it was called back in the day -- I was sort of coerced into playing basketball.
VandyMania: But you ended up liking it.
Katie: Yes. I started playing it, and I just really got into it. And I was lucky enough to have some good coaches in Nelson that pushed me.
VandyMania: At some point, you played for the junior national team. When did that come along? When did you start training with them?
Katie: Well, there are lots of levels of national grades. So I started at under16s. There's a sort of national trials. Everyone goes to Wellington, or sometimes they split it up into three regions. Then they select about 20, or sometimes 30, people, and then they all come together for a weeklong camp. And then out of that a traveling team of 10 is selected.
VandyMania: How old were you when that happened?
Katie: I must have been 14 when I first made the under-18 team.
VandyMania: When did you first start considering the idea of coming to college and playing basketball in the United States?
Katie: Well, there were actually two girls who were Form 7 when I was in Form 1. They were both very talented at both netball and basketball, and they both ended up going on scholarship to the States. I heard about them and had seen them play because they were on the senior teams, and I was just a little intermediate girl going "Wow". (Laughs.) I thought it was a great opportunity that they'd had. As I got a bit older, it seemed that it could become a reality. I just really looked into it further and found out that I could experience a new country, a new culture, get an education at a great school, and play basketball. I think it's important to broaden your experience, broaden your horizons.
VandyMania: Was this summer the first time that you'd been to the United States?
Katie: Yes. I arrived in the United States three months ago for the first time ever.
VandyMania: How has the adjustment been for you?
Katie: It's been made a whole lot easier by the team. By being in the basketball team, it's like being surrounded by a family. All the girls on the team just take care of me and help me out, and the support staff -- the coaches and the managers -- everyone just helped me out to ease my transition.
VandyMania: What's surprised you the most since you've been here?
Katie: (Laughs.) Ashley Earley getting so surprised at me for refilling my water bottle. (Laughs) It's just lots of little things along the way.
VandyMania: Changing the subject, recently many people in the U.S. have become more aware of New Zealand because The Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand. At the time when it was being filmed, were people there really aware of it?
Katie: Yes, definitely. The Lord of the Rings was a big thing. It created a lot of movement in the economy in general. All the costuming, all the sets, everything was designed and made in New Zealand. It was almost like the whole country was involved.
VandyMania: Did you go to any of the filming or bump into actors or crews or anything like that?
Katie: Well, my friend owns Nelson Helicopters and obviously when they were filming in Nelson, they had to use helicopters to get on top of the mountains and that sort of thing. So my friend met Elijah Wood and all of the stars. And then I had one friend that was one of the elves in the movie.
VandyMania: When you see that movie are there any particular scenes in it that make you think about home, or that when people see it, you'd like to say, "I know that place!"
Katie: A lot of it. In general New Zealand is a very beautiful place. Most of the filming was done down on the South Island. There's a large mountain range that goes right down the middle.
VandyMania: Looking at a map, it looks like at your home, you're very close to the mountains and very close to the ocean?
Katie: Yeah. The beach is about seven minutes away. It's something I miss, not being able to wake up and see the water.
Photos of Katie with Assistant Coach Vicky Picott and Katie at the Founders Walk copyright 2004 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com.