Hoop dreaming at University of California Irvine
Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Akiva set big goals and achieved them through hard work and determination. Taking every opportunity to its fullest potential and thriving - Current SJC Head Coach Puke Lenden

Raised in Hamilton alumni, Akiva McBirney Griffin is of Samoan & Cook Island descent and graduated from St John's College in 2020. 

Akiva's well-known highlights include representing New Zealand in the U17s. Championships with Otago Nugget and U17s national title and attending the NBA Global Academy Development Camp in Canberra. Akiva was one of the last pupils mentored by decorated SJC educator, coaching great; the Marist man himself, Mel Young.

Waikato Basketball General Manager and Oldboy Anthony Corban remembers Akiva representing Waikato U13s coached by Mel Young.

"It's fair to say that Mel was always having a running battle with Akiva, who at that stage was a talented guard.

"It made great viewing at the Morrinsville Events Centre with Mel stomping his feet on the sideline. Meanwhile, Akiva was doing a great job of enjoying himself on the court at the expense of Mel's blood pressure."  

A year later, Akiva is at SJC, and Mel was tickled pink to have that young man in the school programme. Little did anyone know that Akiva was going to grow physically and in his character as a young man.

"The early years of learning ball-handling and guard skills would be a point of difference with Akiva and his transition into a student-athlete at NCAA division one level. His ability to get to the hoop and score in a variety of ways is amazing."


Representing Waikato through the age groups in hindsight, you might think his success was inevitable. However, his way was paved through his mother's devotion, sacrifice, and grind.

Current Principal Shane Tong fondly remembers Mel Young “as a coach and teacher of young men – he coached boys, not basketball, he taught boys, not subjects. Mel would be proud of Akiva’s basketball journey and his success, but mostly he’d be proud of the young man that Akiva has become.”


The St John’s whānau will watch Akiva’s progress closely, willing him onwards as he steps closer to the achieving his dream.