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Martin Iti returns to the Sydney Kings after 14 years
Thursday, August 25, 2011, 11:58:00 PM
HERE'S a Cinderella story with a difference.

In this case the footwear wasn't made of glass, but it was still fitted by royalty.

OK, make that basketball royalty - the Sydney Kings.

This tale, tall and true, began 14 years ago when The Daily Telegraph ran a story about Martin Iti, a towering teen who couldn't find, much less afford, basketball boots big enough.

The Kings came to the rescue then, importing from the US a pair of size 21 Nike Air-Max boots, endorsed at the time by Shaquille O'Neal.

"I wore them until they fell apart.

They had holes in them," Iti, 28, said yesterday, half a lifetime later but back in the court of the Kings.

In fact, Iti has grown into his feet.

And now at an imposing 211cm - "in boots" - he has signed a contract to play for his beloved Kings.

Iti, back home with his mum at inner Sydney Waterloo, will turn out in the violet and gold against the Wollongong Hawks at the Snakepit from 4pm on Sunday.

But he'll be treading the pine in size 17 boots.

"No, I haven't shrunk.

Somebody said I had the same size feet as Shaq and I needed size 21 so that's what the Kings gave me.

" Iti said.

"I played in them anyway but I'd wear four pairs of socks and tied the laces real tight.


Like fellow Kings players Luke Martin and Graeme Dann, Iti trained every day at 6am before school with local coach Edward Smith, who also arranged for Iti to attend high school on a basketball scholarship in the US.

"After high school I graduated with a degree in Family and Child Science from New Mexico State University," Iti said.

"At one stage in college I had collected at least 50 pairs of basketball boots.

"But when I left the US in 2008 I left the collection behind.

I went to Europe to play for Rotterdam and then I went to New Zealand with Luke Martin to play for the Southland Sharks.

"Luke came back to play for the Kings last year and pushed for me, but I tore my 'pec' (chest muscle) and sat out a whole season.

"Now I'm home.

"It's funny how things have evolved - with all of us kids (Martin and Dann) growing up together and finally playing together.

"My mother hasn't seen me play since I left for the US when I was 16.

"It's nice to be able to play in my own backyard at last.