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Mormon Basketballer’s Faith Causes Change of Course

Kainoa Lepou is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who loves and excels at basketball.


He currently attends Rosmini College in Takapuna and plays basketball for the Senior Prems Squad. He enrolled there to play his senior year with “the best college basketball team in New Zealand” and hopes it will help take his game to the next level.

Asked what he loved about basketball, Lepou observed: “I love basketball so much, because it is just a fun sport to play. I love the competition and trying to be the best player I can be. My Mum and Dad both won National Championships for Church College (of New Zealand), and my whole family plays basketball. I started playing basketball when I was 5 years old.”

Kainoa is well on his way to achieving his basketball goals. Despite his choice not to play or practice on Sundays, the coaching staff still selected him to play on the New Zealand Under 17 team to compete in the International Basketball Federation (commonly known as FIBA) competitions. Earlier this year Kainoa played on the team at both the FIBA U16 Asia Championships in China (where his team placed third) and at the FIBA U17 World Championships in Argentina (where the team placed 14th).


Before moving to Auckland to play basketball for Rosmini College, Kainoa lived with his family in Temple View and attended Hamilton Boys High School (HBHS), where he was part of the rowing and basketball programs. HBHS has the best rowing program in the country and one of the top basketball programs in the Waikato. Ranked as one of the top junior rowers and basketball players in the school, Lepou seemed to have a bright future.

However, because numerous training camps and regattas were held on Sundays, the Head Junior Rowing Coach told Lepou he would have to choose either to row on Sundays or not row for the school. Kainoa chose not to row on the Sabbath day. As a result, his focus turned exclusively to basketball.


About a year later, as Kainoa was succeeding in basketball and the pressure to play and train on the Sabbath increased, he and his family decided to review their decision not to play sports on Sunday. After seeking guidance from their church leader, they prayed and fasted as a family, and collectively and individually decided not to participate in sports on the Sabbath day.

Through the recent New Zealand FIBA campaigns, Kainoa has missed numerous competition and training days and although he still feels pressure to play from his peers he remains firm in his choice.

Kainoa states, “If I was making the decision to play on Sunday at the tournament it would be a really hard decision to make but I made my decision well before going which makes it easier. I feel like I have been blessed with the decision my family and I made way back when I was 9 years old when I first played representative basketball for the Waikato U11s. I haven’t missed out on making any basketball teams due to my religious stance, I haven’t sustained any major injuries that have prevented me from playing, I have had lots of missionary opportunities when explaining to my teammates why I don’t play on Sundays and I have been a good example to my younger siblings and LDS friends and family as I have put the Lord first in my life. I believe that if I do what the Lord wants me to do that he will always look out for me.”


In the near future Lepou hopes to obtain an athletic scholarship in the U.S.A to further his basketball aspirations and obtain a free education. Kainoa’s first choice of schools would be Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah because he plans to serve a full time proselyting mission for the church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages its members to keep the Sabbath day holy. It does not tell members what they should or should not do on Sundays. That decision is left to the individual. There are many (for example, doctors, nurses, hospital workers, police and fire professionals, etc.) whose work on the Sabbath is essential and a benefit to us all.

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