As the countdown to the 2018 WBC opening weekend continues, teams will be making their final adjustments in the lead up to the first round. Just over two weeks remain before the teams come together in Tuaranga to get the Championship underway.
Two teams that will be looking to improve on their 2017 showing are traditional rivals, the Harbour Breeze and the newly formed, Auckland Dream.
Auckland Dream will have the experienced coaching duo of Tall Ferns assistant Aik Ho and Tania Hunter at the helm for the 2018 competition.
Playing under a new name, Hunter says some thought was given to the new moniker after the Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks and Waitakere Lady Rangers were combined.
“A few of us had some ideas and we eventually settled on the name which we believe fits us and what we want to achieve out of the name and women’s basketball.”
An important part of the campaign so far has centred on bringing the new group together.
“We have recently had a team building session identifying our values and holding each other accountable to those. We wanted the players to understand why we have combined the two previous teams and have one team representing the association. It will enable us to have the best players playing and training together.”
The Dream will be led by the senior leadership trio of Stevee Theyers, Hailey Moala and former Tall Ferns point guard Amanda Buck. Luye Murphy, now working for Auckland Basketball, joins the Dream from the Capital region to further bolster their guard stocks.
Like most WBC teams, the Auckland Dream will have a number of talented age group players on their roster. Last season Sharne Pupuke-Robati and Shauna Povey played significant minutes and this season the pair are likely to be key contributors.
Hunter has been working with her roster and has an idea of how she will use the two youngsters.
“Sharne will probably be one of our starters with Shauna likely to come off the bench. We also have our fingers crossed that Natalie Taylor may be able to play for us later in the season but that depends on her Australian club commitments.”
Auckland Dream will tackle local rivals Harbour Breeze in a classic battle of the bridge in their opening game of the season. Tip-off at 12pm at Queen Elizabeth Youth Centre in Tauranga.
The full draw is available here.
Across town, Harbour Breeze coach Sonny Tuaputa will be hoping his team can make a better start to 2018 than last season.
“We lost the opening five games of the season which really set us back. After that we only lost one further game all season but we can’t afford to make such a poor start again.”
The Breeze will have a nice blend of youth and experience for the 2018 season. Tall Fern Deena Franklin, currently on duty at the Commonwealth Games, will head the front-court contingent backed up by Keeley Tini and new addition Faith McKenzie from Australia.
Joining the squad for the first time will be young guards Tayla Dalton and Jordyn Maddix. Tuaputa is excited about the challenges the two will face going up against some tough opposition.
“Both those players will be hoping to make the New Zealand team to attend the FIBA Under 17 World Cup in July and playing with and against older, more physical players will aid their development.”
“It will also help our young players if some of our American college players return to play although their availability is unknown at this stage.”
One former college player definitely playing is Morgan Ili (neé Roberts) who last year completed her scholarship at Oregon Tech. Ili will be an important cog in the Breeze guard rotation that will be without 2017 Tall Fern Georgia Agnew.
The 2017 WBC Plate winners will open their season with a match up against cross-town rivals, the Auckland Dream on Friday May 4th. Tip off 12pm at Queen Elizabeth Youth Centre in Tauranga.
The full draw is available here.