Highlight video of Mauriohooho-Le'afa
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento State head men's basketball coach Brian Katz announced the signing of New Zealand guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa to a National Letter of Intent today.
Mauriohooho-Le'afa (pronounced Mo-dee-oh-ho-ho Lee-ah-fuh), who becomes the first New Zealand-born player in men's basketball program history, will enroll as a freshman at Sacramento State this fall. He joins Notre Dame High School forward/guard Chibueze Jacobs and Beyer High School guard George Dancer as the three players to sign with the Hornets for the 2016-17 season. Jacobs signed earlier this month and Dancer committed to Sacramento State during the early signing period in November.
Mauriohooho-Le'afa, who is a 6-foot-2, 195-pound guard from Wellington, New Zealand, graduated in December of 2014 from St. Patrick's College (high school) in Wellington. He spent three years playing professionally for the Wellington Saints of the National Basketball League (NBL), which is the top league in New Zealand.
In fact, Mauriohooho-Le'afa has had numerous professional stops in New Zealand. That includes being selected to play as a 16-year old for the New Zealand national team in 2013 when he was the youngest player on the squad. That team is nicknamed the Tall Blacks, and selects only the top players from the New Zealand NBL. Later, in 2015, he was selected to play for the Tall Blacks' Olympic qualifying team.
Mauriohooho-Le'afa, who started playing basketball at five years old, was also the captain for the U-19 Junior Tall Blacks national team in 2014. In addition, he represented New Zealand at a 3-on-3 tournament at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games where his team reached the 16th round of the competition.
As a prep, he played four years at St. Patrick's College, where he was the starting point guard each of his final three seasons. Mauriohooho-Le'afa averaged over 20 points per game during his last two years and was named the school's Sportsman of the Year and team MVP during each of those seasons. He helped St. Patrick's to a league championship in 2013.
"We are excited about the addition of Izayah to our program," Katz said. "He is a very skilled player that can play both the point and off guard positions. Izayah can really shoot the basketball and has a big, strong body. We like the fact he has spent the last few years playing against older, more mature players and the level of competition he has faced exceeds most high school players that are entering a collegiate program."
Mauriohooho-Le'afa has basketball in his bloodlines as his father, George, was a point guard and won multiple NBL championships as a player for the Wellington Saints. His father was also an assistant coach for Wellington during Izayah's final two seasons with the club.
Mauriohooho-Le'afa has plenty of rugby-playing experience, including a stint with the rugby squad at St. Patrick's.
Sacramento State is coming off a 2015-16 season in which the team posted a 14-17 record, won three of its final four games, and beat Montana State in the first round of the Big Sky Conference Tournament. The Hornets will return six of their top eight scorers from a year ago, including leading scorer Justin Strings and second leading scorer Marcus Graves.
Sacramento State's Signees
||Modesto, Calif./Beyer HS
|Chibueze Jacobs||F/G||6-4||200||Fr.||Canyon Country, Calif./Notre Dame HS|
|Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa||G||6-2||195||Fr.||Wellington, New Zealand/St. Patrick's College|