With news that veterans Toni Farnworth and Chevannah Paalvast have returned to Australia to fulfill club commitments, half of the remaining 12-player Tall Ferns squad preparing for the William Jones Cup are rookies.
Head Coach Guy Molloy says the six debutantes is part of a plan to secure a brighter future for the Tall Ferns.
“This is an intentional strategy to build depth, increase competition for positions, and satisfy the increasing demands of FIBA for international basketball competition.”
Unfortunately Amy West, who is nursing an injured ankle, was unable to play in any of the three ‘warm up’ games last week in Japan, but all the other five debutants – Ella Fotu, Matangiroa Flavell, Mary Goulding. Esra McGoldrick and Zoe Richards -played significant minutes.
Those minutes will stand the players in good stead as they head into the more intense environment of the William Jones Cup where teams will face the demands of playing five games in as many days, three of the games against opponents with a higher FIBA World ranking.
All the players have noticed the speed of the game is so much quicker on the international stage.
Cantabrian Mary Goulding says she noticed the step up in standard from college and club basketball.
“The level of performance is so much higher. You really have to be on the ball all the time as the margin of error is so small. There really is no time to mess up.”
Harbour Breeze guard Ella Fotu agreed.
“The speed and intensity is insane, everything is so fast.”
The Kiwis begin their defence of the William Jones Cup tonight when they face the Philippines, ranked No 47 in the world – New Zealand are ranked 42nd. The Tall Ferns will then play Korea (#18), Chinese Taipei (#39), Chinese Taipei B and Japan (#10).
Tessa Boagni, Stella Beck, Penina Davidson and Kalani Purcell are the four remaining New Zealand players that won gold at last year’s William Jones Cup.
Beck finished second in scoring last year averaging 17.8 points per game.
The Rookies have relished training and playing alongside their more experienced teammates. Matangiroa Flavell, the 21 year-old from the Harbour Breeze, says she is taking every opportunity to learn as much as she can.
“We are all still so young, I feel like just learning from the greatest players in our country and just using this opportunity to gain experience to hopefully get a lot better is fantastic. So this is just one step to getting better, playing well in the future and performing at our peak.”
North Canterbury Spirit forward and Palmerston North Girls’ High alumna Amy West has relished the experience.
“It is awesome to be around the environment and intensity at which it takes to be a Tall Fern and to learn from the veterans is an unforgettable experience for me.”
North Canterbury Spirit teammate Esra McGoldrick has found the experience both demanding and rewarding.
“It’s been challenging coming on to the court having the expectations for yourself to come out and perform. However having reassurance from Guy Molloy that you are here for a reason and we welcome you has been a real positive.”
Otago Gold Rush forward Zoe Richards, probably summed up the feelings of all six new players.
“I hope to represent my country and be the best player I can be, and just learn and grow as a player from having this experience and playing international basketball.”
Those experiences resume on Wednesday in Taipei against the Philippines.
William Jones Cup schedule (tip-off times NZT):
24 July New Zealand v Philippines, tip-off 6.00pm
25 July New Zealand v Korea, tip-off 6.00pm
26 July New Zealand v Chinese Taipei B, tip-off 8pm
27 July New Zealand v Chinese Taipei A, tip-off 10pm
28 July New Zealand v Japan, tip-off 8pm
The local oragnising committee has stated the second and third game will be livestreamed here: https://tw.tv.yahoo.com/sports-video-jonescup/
We are seeking further information about this broadcast.
TALL FERNS TEAM
Stella Beck (Launceston Tornadoes/Melbourne Boomers)
Tessa Boagni (Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats)
Micaela Cocks (Townsville Fire)
Penina Davidson (Harbour Breeze/Adelaide Lightning)
Matanigiroa Flavell (Harbour Breeze)*
Ella Fotu (Harbour Breeze)*
Mary Goulding (Rockhampton Cyclones)*
Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato Wizards)
Esra McGoldrick (McAlpines M10 Mega North Canterbury Spirit / NC State University)*
Kalani Purcell (Auckland Dream/Melbourne Boomers)
Zoe Richards (AM I FIT Otago Gold Rush/Eckerd College)*
Amy West (McAlpines M10 Mega North Canterbury Spirit / Liberty University)*
William Jones Cup schedule and results: http://jonescup.meetagile.com/index.html
Follow the Tall Ferns social media channels: @TallFerns Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Hashtag: #TallFerns