10 July 2019, Apia Samoa. Geraldynn ‘Malama’ Leaupepe scored nearly half of Samoa’s goals during the 106-64 thrashing of New Caledonia in their opening game for Women’s basketball at the XVI Pacific Games.
The 23 year old grew up in California with her parents Ale and Fatima Leaupepe and 10 siblings including her twin sister Geralynn ‘Malaea’ who is also a basketball player.
Samoa Global News caught up with Malama on Monday night after a dominating performance in her first taste of Pacific Games against New Caledonia where she scored 42 of Samoa’s 106 points (40%) including 5 three-pointers.
Malama remained humble and gave the credit back to a team effort.
“It’s so exciting to be here representing Samoa;
“For tonight’s game I thank my team mates for putting me in a good position to score points.”
“I also give credit to the coaching staff for all the preperations especially since its only been a few days since we’ve been together”.
Coach of the Samoa Women’s basketball team said that they were grateful Malama chose Samoa over other opportunities offered to her.
“Malama was offered many contracts overseas but chose to represent Samoa.”
Malama says that her family in Samoa are from Vaivase and Leili, Tanumalala.
The talented basketballer says there are two of them! And that her twin would also love to play for Samoa one day.
“My twin sister plays in Australia for the Sanbury Jets, and that’s why she couldn’t be here”.
The Leaupepe twins set records during their time at Camarillo High and reportedly “transformed the Scorpions from a middle of the pack Pacific View League program to three-time defending champions”.
They became the program’s all-time leading career rebounders, Geralynn 954 and Geraldynn at 940. They ranked 2nd and 3rd in career points at High School with Geraldynn 1699 and Geralynn at 1477.
They left high school with Geraldynn ranking first in career blocks (215) and Geralynn holding the single-game records for points (40) and rebounds (24) and consequently rewarded with full-ride scholarships to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
The Leaupepes are two of 11 children and their parents Ale and Fatima moved to the United States from Samoa to give their children a better life.
They worked multiple jobs and made numerous sacrifices to the twins could thrive academically and athletically.
Ale and Fatima moved to the United with only one child and then moved back to Samoa forna few years when they
Fatima says that they “wanted the five kids to learn to appreciate what they have over here in the States. We wanted them to learn the culture and where they came from.”
“After we came back the older siblings would tell the younger ones how lucky they are and to be grateful.”
Fatima worked two jobs to help support the family; as campus supervisor at the girls’ school from 7am to 2pm before working the graveyard shift at a hospital from 9pm to 6am.
“I work two jobs and my husband also works so we can buy them things. I don’t want my kids to work I want them to focus on school. They want to work because they feel bad I have to work two jobs but I won’t let them,” says Fatima.
Asked about their names Malama says her mom was having bit of fun with the fact that they were twins.
“I think our Mom was trying to be funny, she said the point of having twins is to give people a hard time;
“Our Samoan names are also one letter apart: Malama and Malaea”.
Asked how they came to play basketball, Malama says it all started with being sent to Polynesian dance classes when they were in the 4th Grade. There was a basketball court nearby and they would join in after dance classes.
“It then became the only reason why we wanted to go to dance class, so we could sneak away to the basketball courts.”
Their parents then signed them up with a local recreation league never imagining that the twins would develop into two of the best players in Southern California.
“We couldn’t afford to let our older children play sports but when the twins came along we could”.
They became good enough to draw interest from several Division 1 Colleges but when it came to choosing a college the twins were a package deal. Two scholarships and two roster spots were recruiting requirements.
Malama Leaupepe will be heading to Spain to take up a basketball contract in September this year.
She is a Samoa Global News #OneToWatch athlete for the Pacific Games 2019.