Life as an international student athlete

From New Zealand to Klamath Falls

Nohea Waiwaiole

Staff Writer

In the summer of 2011, Morgan Roberts met Oregon Tech women’s basketball Head Coach Scott Meredith in a hot parking lot outside of a gym crowded with college recruits and scouts in Oregon. Today, Roberts is an all-conference and all-American point guard for Tech. After spring term, she is graduating with a degree in applied psychology and looking forward to returning home to New Zealand.

In 2011, Meredith was the first coach to reach out to Roberts about playing college basketball in the US, but soon after their encounter another program had garnered her attention. Roberts signed with Division One NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) University of Hawaii at Manoa and started in June of 2012.

Roberts’s time with D1 basketball ended abruptly after three hard months in Hawaii.

“The coach who recruited me to play there (University of Hawaii at Manoa) got fired before I showed up,” said Roberts. “I quickly realized that the style and intensity of D1 basketball was not for me and went back to New Zealand.”

After a grueling experience Roberts thought her time playing college basketball was over.

“It really took the fun out of basketball for me,” said Roberts. “I got injured and had a hard time finding my place at such a large university with coaches who did not really support me or want me there.”

Quitting was one of the hardest decisions Roberts made, but it ended up working out for the best. At this same time in her life Roberts began dating her now husband Shea Ili. Ili is a professional basketball player in New Zealand.

“After a lot of support from my family and Shea I decided to give it (basketball) another shot,” said Roberts. “I called up Coach Meredith because he struck me as a kind coach and I thought the size of Oregon Tech would be a much better fit for me.”

In the Fall of 2014, two years after their first encounter, Meredith got an email from Roberts. Roberts inquired about playing at Oregon Tech and wondered if Meredith even remembered who she was.

Of course Meredith remembered Roberts due to her division one level skills. Meredith was excited about signing Roberts to play for the following 2015-2016 season, but as the year dragged on he became worried if Roberts would actually show up.

A few months after committing to Oregon Tech Roberts got engaged. Upon hearing the news, Meredith panicked and assumed she would not leave her soon to be husband to play basketball 7,000 miles away.

Roberts was not as concerned.

“Yeah it was really hard to leave him, but that was always the plan,” said Roberts. “Nothing changed after we got engaged. I was still going to come to the States to pursue my dream of playing college basketball and he (Shea) was still going to live his dream of playing professionally in New Zealand.”

“It has been hard being a part for so long and getting married and not being able to start our lives together yet,” said Roberts, “but I wouldn’t trade my time over here for anything. I am excited to move back home and finally live with my husband, but the friendships I made over here made it all worth it.”

Roberts fit in well at Oregon Tech by making a name for herself on the court while forming lots of relationships among peers and community members in Klamath Falls.

“It has been such a great experience being teammates with Morgan these last two years,” said Senior Carly McIsaac. “The cultural exchange our team has gained from this experience is irreplaceable, as are the friendships we’ve formed with Morgan.”

“I never expected to live in a place like Klamath Falls so far away from home and love it so much,” said Roberts, “but my experience here and the friendships I made are ones I will keep with me for the rest of my life. I actually think leaving in the spring will be a lot harder than I expected.”

A whole ‘nother ballpark