Tall Black Jordan Ngatai's baby joy 'I'm big, soft teddy bear'

The basketball star admits his daughter has him wrapped around her little finger

By Carmen Lichi
As a towering professional basketball player who travels the world competing in major tournaments, not much fazes Jordan Ngatai.
But the 1.96cm Tall Black, nicknamed the Prince of Porirua, admits that when it comes to his firstborn daughter Pia, he's nothing but "a big, soft teddy bear".
And there's no doubt the feeling's mutual. As Woman's Day catches up with Jordan and his partner Paige Reeves at their Napier homebase, where he plays for the Hawke's Bay Hawks, the sleeping tot's deep blue eyes fly open, fixing firmly on her father, a smile on her lips as he tenderly cradles her.
"Some of my teammates see my photos of Pia and tease me a bit," he tells. "They're like, 'Oh, look, he's all staunch at training – and then he gets home and he's a big, soft teddy bear!' It's true, though – Pia's got me wrapped around her little finger already. I'm not even gonna deny it."
Now seven months old, Pia is a smiley, crawling explorer.
"She's pretty quick off the mark, so we've always got to keep an eye on her," says Jordan, 30. "We think her blue eyes come from Paige's side and she's got my fair skin from the Irish side of my Irish-Māori family."
"She's like a little mini bestie," adds Paige, 26. "She makes everything so much fun and even though we're both close with our families, having this new addition has really strengthened that bond."
Pia's middle names are a nod to the middle name of Paige's father Reuben, as well as the couple's Māori heritage and her birth month.
"Winika means Christmas orchid in te reo," says Jordan, recalling how he learned about the plant at school.
Pia James Winika Ngatai
Born 12 December 2022
Weight 3.14kg
Length 53cm
Teaching their beautiful wee girl te reo Māori is a non-negotiable for the couple, with Jordan of Ngāti Toa descent and Paige's Ngāti Whātua ancestry.
"Paige and I are both still learning, but once we get more confident at speaking it, I think it will just become a habit.
"We want it to be something she incorporates into her every day, no matter where we are in the world," explains Jordan. "Because that's who she is – she's Māori."
That said, the couple – whose "very modern love story" began in Auckland four years ago after connecting on social media – decided to have Pia in Singapore, where Paige's family is based, after Jordan sustained an injury, which took potential contracts in Australia and Europe off the cards.
"The longer we stayed, the more settled we felt, and it was great having that family support," reflects Jordan. "If I had signed a contract, I could have missed the birth or a lot of her first milestones. I don't take that for granted."
Pia was born at a private hospital, Thomson Medical Centre, weighing 3.14kg with a length of 53cm – suggesting she's set to take after her statuesque parents.
"She's in the 95th percentile for height," tells Paige, herself 1.72m. "But then again, we're a tall couple!"
But despite his reputation as a fearless world-class hoop-shooter, Jordan – already an uncle of four – admits that his nerves got the better of him during Pia's arrival on 12 December 2022.
"I've never felt so helpless as a man – and a human. I wish I could've taken that pain away. Paige was amazing though and it was beautiful. I had tears in my eyes and I was shaking like crazy as I cut the umbilical cord. We both looked at each other like, 'All right, this is the start of the first chapter…'"
A sibling is on the cards for the little charmer!
The sportsman has gone from strength to strength since he made his NBL debut with the Wellington Saints back in 2012, joining the Tall Blacks Squad the following year. A key part of the Breakers 2015 comeback win and the 2018 Commonwealth bronze-medal winning team, he admits he wasted no time in acquainting Pia with his sport.
"I was watching MBA by her cot on the second night," he smiles. "She had her eyes open and it felt like our first daddy-daughter bonding moment, watching basketball together while Paige was sleeping after an exhausting 48 hours!"
Just two months later, the family jetted back to Aotearoa so Jordan could play two Tall Blacks home games against Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, before settling in Napier, where he recently signed with the Hawke's Bay Hawks.
This one's for Pia!
"We love it here," tells Paige, a former flight attendant turned media account manager. "It's nice to have a small-town vibe and I've got a good gang of girls."
Adds Jordan, "I have played with a lot of my teammates before, so Paige knows a few of their partners and it's been an easy transition."
The new family has settled into an impressive tag-team arrangement. Jordan is up with Pia at 6.30am, and by 7.30am he's training on the court, returning by 10.30am, so Paige can work remotely.
Jordan and his cheer squad.
By 3pm, the family grabs a couple of hours together, then Jordan heads back for more evening training, while Paige does the bedtime routine, often reading Pia her favourite book, Oma Rāpeti, as she
drifts off to sleep.
"It works really well and she doesn't wake up in the middle of the night – she sleeps straight through," marvels her doting dad.
"When one of our batteries is a little low, the other one can make up for it," adds Paige. "I really like that."
Talk turns to the future. "We'd like to have a couple of years just the three of us, before adding to the tribe, but if it happens, it happens!" enthuses Jordan.
Right now, though, things are getting busy with the Hawks and the NZNBL. Come August, he'll head to Tall Blacks camp in Auckland to prepare for the World Cup, which is being played in the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan.
Paige and Pia will base themselves back with their family in Singapore, before heading over to the Philippines to cheer Jordan on.
"If she wants to play professionally when she's older, I'll support her," says Jordan.
"But I want her to enjoy the game before she even considers it as a career. Likewise, if she wants to play tennis or volleyball, or even if she doesn't want to play any sport at all, I'll back her 100% – she's my little baby girl, my princess!"
  • undefined: Carmen Lichi

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