Basketball: Opportunities at home now for Aston

Otago Nugget Luke Aston passes on some shooting tips to members of the Diggers junior basketball programme at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin yesterday. From left are Gabriella Oswald (10), Ripeka Potiki (6), Savanna Westgate (10), Archie Campbell (8), Grayson Westgate (9) and Travis Smith (11). Photo by Linda Robertson.
Otago Nugget Luke Aston passes on some shooting tips to members of the Diggers junior basketball programme at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin yesterday. From left are Gabriella Oswald (10), Ripeka Potiki (6), Savanna Westgate (10), Archie Campbell (8), Grayson Westgate (9) and Travis Smith (11). Photo by Linda Robertson.
Promising basketballer Luke Aston has had to do a lot of growing up in the last two years.

The 22-year-old left for the United States to take up a sporting scholarship at Santa Rosa Junior College in 2010.

It was meant to be the adventure of a lifetime but he left the country with a heavy heart. His mother, Marie Aston, had been diagnosed with cancer and died on July 4 this year.

Luke returned to New Zealand on his birthday - June 28 - and spent a few precious days with his mother before she died.

He plans to remain in Dunedin for the near future to help support his family, particular his younger brother Liam (16).

Liam is also a promising young basketballer and is in Nelson with the Otago Boys' High School team, which is contesting the national secondary schools finals this week.

"I've been looking after him," Aston said.

"My dad was in Queenstown with work and he has just moved down in the last few weeks. My sister (Erin, 24) was here as well. But we spend a lot of time together, because my dad is working so much."

The 2m tall swingman has unfinished business in the States and plans to return at some stage to complete his degree in physical therapy and further his basketball education.

He enjoyed the environment there and found the level of basketball challenging.

Aston did not get as much court time as he would have liked, with a knee injury holding him back during the first season, and he also tore a ligament in his hand and played with heavy strapping during his second season.

But he plans to make the most of the opportunities here for him.

"Markham Brown [Basketball Otago general manager] has organised for me to start working here and to play for the Nuggets next year, so I'm going to take that opportunity."

He has been training with former Tall Blacks point guard Mark Dickel and working on his outside game. The Nuggets struggled to hit three-pointers this season and Aston builds his game around his ability to hit shots from the outside.

"Since getting back and working out with Mark, I've actually got a lot better. His work rate and work ethic is just tremendous.

"The Nuggets had a good season and every year is a step forward and I just want to come in and do whatever I can to help the team."

Aston got limited minutes for the Nuggets in 2010. Most of his opportunities came late in the quarter or towards the end of the game but he held his own.

While Aston has not yet signed with the Nuggets, he has made a commitment to play. He cannot receive any payment for playing, as it would prevent him returning to the States on a sporting scholarship.

"My mum wanted me to get my degree, so that is important. I want to finish that off. I had a good time over there and learnt a lot.

"It is nice to be there to be able to study and play. But it was hard being away from home and being so far away.

"I left five days after I decided [to go], and got there and I had nowhere to live or anything, and nothing sorted. But once you fit in, it is good. There is a whole bunch of people doing the same thing as you and it is great."

• Otago Boys lost its game against Melville yesterday, 68-62.