Updated: Jun 11
After taking a hiatus due to COVID last year, the 2021 Tarkanian Classic returned with 175+ teams spread across multiple gyms in Las Vegas, NV over the span of a week. Featuring elite basketball competition in prep and high school divisions, the must-see annual December high school tournament provided evaluators an opportunity to watch the prestigious NBA Academies in Africa and Latin America in addition to programs from around the U.S., Canada, and even Germany.
Pro Insight was on hand to cover the event and caught up with Ben Gold of the NBA Global Academy in Canberra, Australia. Gold was the first Kiwi to be selected to the Academy. The New Zealand native comes from a tall family, as his parents and brothers are all at least 6’2”. At the Tarkanian Classic, the 6’10” forward suited up for the Latin America team and adjusted seamlessly to complement different teammates. Showing his positional versatility by being able to make plays inside the paint and beyond the perimeter, Gold is a skilled prospect who should immediately help a high major program next year.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Gold highlighted his background and journey to the NBA Academy, his goal to play college basketball and then in the NBA, his interest in physical therapy, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present NBA Global Academy’s Ben Gold, from Wellington, New Zealand:
Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today?
Ben Gold: Yeah, I grew up around basketball. Dad was playing basketball. I got two older brothers that were playing basketball so I was basically surrounded by it when I was younger, growing up [and] training with them, playing against them in the backyard. All the fights and physical games that happened just made me better. And then just being around them and having them introducing me to the basketball community, training with the coaches that I've been through. And then I got the opportunity two-and-a-half years ago to go to a talent camp with the [NBA] Global Academy. And then got invited back for this trip two years ago. And since then I got offered a scholarship and been there for the last two years.
PI: Who did you get your height from? How tall is your family?
BG: Both [of my parents]. Dad is 6’5”. Mum is 6’2” and then my older brother, oldest is 6’5” and the middle brother is 6’8”. So yeah, in the family I'm the youngest, but I'm the tallest.
PI: Before the NBA Academy, where were you playing?
BG: I was playing club and school basketball back home in Wellington.
PI: Talk a bit about your experience at the NBA Global Academy. In your opinion, what do you think is the most impressive aspect about the NBA Academy?
BG: It's really just the best place to be. Like being back home, you're not surrounded by that great of competition, but coming to Academy was a big shock relief. You're surrounded by the best players in all of Australia [and] around the world, and you're competing every day. So if you're going to work hard, you're guaranteed to get better.
PI: What are the most important things you took away playing at Tarkanian Classic?
BG: You really got to be able to play as a team, so me being new to the Latin American Academy, training with them for just only a week, you had to get that chemistry quickly to be able to play. But yeah, you gotta [play] unselfish basketball. They're really fast paced here in Vegas 'cause a lot of the teams are smaller and shooters so you gotta match up differently. For me, I was guarding a lot of guards. So yeah, that was a big change.
PI: Of all the opponents you’ve played recently, who has been the toughest to matchup with?
BG: It would have been Jaxon Kohler, the Southern California big man. Yeah, so guarding him, he's a big guy but as well there's a couple others on their team as well like shifty guards, fast guards having to go from guarding a big man to switching onto their point guard.
PI: Did you play any other sports growing up?
BG: I did track and field growing up ‘til I was around 12. I also played rugby so rugby is the big sport back home. Everyone’s playing it, so it came to a point where I had to choose between rugby and basketball. I couldn’t do both.
PI: What events did you do for track and field?
BG: I did 100m, 200m, 400m, high jump, and long jump so I was a sprinter and then I jumped.
PI: What are your current measurements?
BG: I'm 6’10”, 212 pounds, and I think it's a 7’1” wingspan.
PI: For those that aren’t familiar with your game, what are your greatest strengths and play style?
BG: Yeah, versatile. A lot of the time I'm playing on the wing as a three-man, but at this [Tarkanian Classic] tournament I've had to play a different role in the team as a big man. So really I can step out on the perimeter, shoot, attack the rim, post up, and defend guards and bigs.
PI: What do you feel you still need to improve on the most? What have you been working on?
BG: Getting stronger. Tightening my handle so that when I'm on the perimeter I can take my defender better, and then just finishing around the rim.
PI: Who do you model your game after and try to study on film?
BG: I love to watch a lot of Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill, KD, and Michael Porter, Jr. — like some of those guys that are like the big guards who can play inside and out.
PI: How would you describe the basketball culture in New Zealand?
BG: They all get around you type of thing so they're all congratulatory, but the competition isn't the greatest. (Laughs) I'm probably the tallest person in the basketball community back home, so it's got good competition, but once you get older you want to go somewhere else to play so that you know you're going to get better and improve.
PI: Talk about experience with the New Zealand National Team.
BG: Ah, that was great. Being 17, playing on the national team with one of the biggest basketball legends to play in New Zealand. Just learning a lot from him, but also putting on the New Zealand jersey was the biggest honor.
PI: What are your short term goals you have for yourself as a player?
BG: I wanna be in college playing basketball next year. Onwards after that, [the] NBA is the biggest dream, professional basketball really.
Yeah, I just want to keep my basketball career going.
PI: What is your recruitment update?
BG: I've received offers from Marquette and Santa Barbara, but have had interest from Utah, Washington State, and Georgia Tech.
PI: Do you have a dream school growing up?
BG: The dream school was USC. I remember seeing them on TV and I just don't know… I just love the colors of their team so that's what drew me to the team first and then actually getting older and understanding basketball, I just loved the style of play.
PI: What are your biggest interests outside of basketball?
BG: I like to just be around people, having fun [and] being around my mates, going outside, doing stuff. I like to chill, but I'd rather be outside doing other stuff.
PI: Who are your favorite music artists?
BG: Oh, that's a tough one (laughs). Probably at the moment it's a bit of a basic one, but Drake.
PI: If you were stuck forever on a deserted island and had all the food, water, and shelter you needed — what three personal items would you bring?
BG: Ahh, basketball. I have to bring something else...can I say family? (interview nods) Ahh, family and a hoop, a basketball hoop (laughs).
PI: You have one hashtag to describe yourself. What is it?
BG: (Laughs) Probably #funny. I like to make people laugh.
PI: If you woke up tomorrow to see a fortune in your bank account, what would be your first purchase?
BG: (Laughs) I'd give a lot to my parents just 'cause of how much they've done for me, paying for trips to go, [coming] over here to Vegas a couple years ago, paying for national team trips — everything like that. So I'd give them, buy them something, give them a lot of money.
PI: If you weren’t pursuing a career as a professional hooper, what do you think you would choose to do?
BG: I've always been interested in like…I don't know what you guys call it here, but physio. Yeah physical therapy, so my mum was a physio so I've been around that, but really, just if I wasn't in basketball, I'd still want to be around the sport doing something.
PI: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
BG: That's a tough one. I'd say probably from my dad. He just said “don't let anything change you, you know with basketball, how well you're doing, don't let like the hype or anything like that change you. Stay grounded, stay humble.”
PI: How would you define the word ‘success?’
BG: Kind of just doing something that's made you happy. If you're happy doing something and you feel like you're doing good at it, then you're successful.
PI: What is your biggest pet peeve?
BG: (Laughs) Ah, people eating loud…people making lots of noise when they [eat].
PI: That’s funny, because Tyrese had a similar response as well.
BG: Yeah, when you're in Academy, there's a couple kids that do it. Everyone gets annoyed (laughs).
PI: Where do you see yourself in five years?
BG: Hopefully playing in the NBA. By five years, I would be done with college. So yeah, NBA or professional basketball.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
BG: Funny. Kind. Humble. Caring.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?
BG: Someone who impacted people on and off the court. You know, when I make it big, you know the dream is to make it big in basketball. I want to be able to impact people off the court, help people off the court, but as well as be a role model on and off the court really, be looked up to.