The Tall Ferns squad to tour Asia in July has been named today and only Kalani Purcell remains from the team that won bronze at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April.
Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy says this is an intentional ploy as the tour provides opportunity to build an experienced depth chart, as he eyes the 2020 Olympics.
“Since results on the upcoming tour has no implications for world ranking, we have been given a strategic opportunity to build depth within the Tall Ferns programme and do some exciting talent identification,” said Coach Molloy.
“I have seen plenty of the players who represented New Zealand with distinction at the Commonwealth Games to ensure their consideration for selection in 2019. This is a perfect time for some excellent young players to wear the black singlet again or represent the Tall Ferns for the first time.
“We have however selected Kalani Purcell from the bronze medal winning team. She will have the honour of captaining the team as we build leadership for the next generation of Tall Ferns.”
“I was particularly impressed with some of the skill on display at the Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) Combine back in May and I also knew that many excellent US college seniors were returning to New Zealand. I wanted both groups to feature heavily in selection,” Molloy added.
The seniors Molloy refers to are Stella Beck, Jacinta Beckley, Brooke Blair, Tessa Boagni and Penina Davidson who have all previously played for the Tall Ferns at various stages during their now completed college careers.
Three newcomers to the senior national programme are Alyssa Hirawani, Tera Reed and Nicole Ruske although all three played together on the Junior Tall Ferns (under 19) team in 2016.
Ruske is the only member of the squad that hasn’t spent time in the American college system choosing to play for Otago Gold Rush in the WBC whilst studying psychology at Otago University.
Tera Reed has recently enjoyed a highly successful freshman year at Virginia Commonwealth University while Alyssa Hirawani has returned to the Waikato Wizards after a year at Murray State College.
The other newcomer and least known player to New Zealand basketball fans is guard Ashleigh Karaitiana. A Hamilton native Karaitiana was a starter in all her four years at the University of Hawaii. She has spent the last two years playing for Bendigo Spirit in the Australian Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL).
The team will have a Preparation Camp in Japan that will include games against the Japan National Women’s Team before heading to Taiwan to compete at the William Jones Cup (July 25-29).
It will be the 40th edition of the William Jones Cup, that in addition to New Zealand (ranked 42nd in the world) will feature Korea (ranked No 16 in the world), Japan (reigning FIBA Asia Cup champions and No 13 ranked team in the world), Chinese Taipei (ranked No 40 in the world), Chinese Taipei B and a yet to be announced sixth team.
Molloy is looking forward to seeing how his young team performs against quality opposition.
“We are very pleased to have the opportunity of such a quality tour in 2018, when opportunities were expected to be limited. In particular, the chance to play the Japanese National Team twice (current Asian champions) is very exciting. I can’t wait to get underway.”
After this tour, the road to the Olympics will begin in earnest from November 2019 as part of the new FIBA Women’s National Team Competition Structure announced earlier this week and designed to give more countries a chance to qualify for major international events. First round qualifiers will be played in tournament formats and held in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. The Oceania region will now play as part of Asia for those tournaments. Sixteen teams will advance to play in four further tournaments in February 2020. The top three finishers in each of these tournaments will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics (for full details see the FIBA release).
New Zealand Tall Ferns
Stella Beck (Hutt Valley/Formerly St Mary’s College, California)
Jacinta Beckley (Wellington/Formerly Seattle University)
Brooke Blair (Harbour Breeze/Formerly Idaho State University)
Tessa Boagni (Canterbury/Formerly California State University, Northridge)
Penina Davidson (Harbour Breeze/Formerly University of California, Berkeley)
Alyssa Hirawani (Waikato Wizards/Formerly Murray State College
Ashleigh Karaitiana (Bendigo Spirit)
Kalani Purcell (Waikato/Melbourne Boomers)
Tera Reed (Harbour Breeze/Virginia Commonwealth University)
Nicole Ruske (Otago/Otago Gold Rush)
Travel to Japan
17 July, 2018
18 - 24 July, 2018
Travel to Taiwan
24 July, 2018
William Jones Cup
25 - 29 July, 2018
30-31 July, 2018
The Preparation Camp in Japan includes three games:
Two vs Japan National Team on 20 and 22 July. One vs Fujitsu Redwaves on 21 July