The University of California Golden Bears women's basketball team has confirmed they will play in New Zealand and Australia this August, giving Kiwi basketball fans a unique opportunity to see a top NCAA Division One women's college side, including Tall Fern Penina Davidson.
The Golden Bears are the premiere basketball team for the University of California, Berkeley, a team that has been to the big NCAA tournament nine times, and won three conference championships.
Basketball New Zealand has endorsed New Zealand International Basketball Tours (NZIBT) to manage this tour, which tips off at the North Shore Events Centre on 13 August. The Golden Bears will take on a team called 'New Zealand Premiere', made up of talented New Zealand players including a selection from teams competing in the New Zealand Women's Basketball Championship (WBC). The tour will end with two games in Sydney, the first versus the WNBL Sydney Uni Flames and the second is yet to be confirmed.
NZIBT Tour Director Ashley Gayle believes it's a brilliant opportunity to showcase New Zealand's rising female talent.
"The NZ Premiere team will be made up of some of our best local talent. The WBC all-star-five will gain automatic selection, plus we'll add some veterans and college hopefuls to round it out. It will also be coached by Lori McDaniel and Jody Cameron.”
Canterbury Wildcats import Gayle has been working fulltime for NZIBT, organising the tour and working closely with Cal staff on the details, which includes off-court tourist adventures for the teams in both countries.
"We're working hard on making the whole experience something the players will never forget. When I played at University of Texas, we toured Europe and those memories have always stayed with me. Foreign tours are as much about building team chemistry as they are about the basketball."
Basketball New Zealand Chief Executive Iain Potter also sees the opportunity for young college-scholarship hopefuls to showcase their talents against one of the best NCAA women’s basketball teams.
"We want to grow our relationships with US Colleges, and their coaches and scouts, so they can see we have tremendous talent in New Zealand and to help foster Kiwis into US Scholarship opportunities. Right now there are over 70 young Kiwi women playing scholarship basketball in the US, where they are receiving free educations and improving their basketball skills in well-funded and near-professional basketball environments. It's not only a great opportunity for them, but it's also great for the pool of New Zealand talent available to the Tall Ferns.
"Cal are a top NCAA team and we're naturally fans because Penina Davidson plays for them, she's a Tall Fern and a star over there. While she was unavailable for the 2017 Tall Ferns, it’s great she will be able to attend this event in August.
“We've been working hard to grow the women's game and this venture is one more added opportunity," says Potter.
Game Cal Berkely vs NZ: 4pm Sunday 13 August at North Shore Events Centre, followed by post game function at 7pm, Rydges Hotel downtown Auckland - all fans welcome.
Game Two vs Sydney Uni Flames: 7.15pm Saturday at Sutherland Basketball Stadium.
Game three – TBA.
Tickets on sale at www.nzibt.org.