Tall Ferns named for Commonwealth Games

Tall Ferns named for Commonwealth Games
The New Zealand Olympic Committee along with Basketball New Zealand has named the women’s basketball team for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

The naming concludes selections for the Games with the basketballers taking the final team number to 251 athletes, making it the largest ever New Zealand Commonwealth Games team.

New Zealand Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy has ensured there’s a balanced mix, consisting mostly of tried and trusted experience, but also with a youthful dose.

"After an excellent three-day camp in Dandenong last month, we have picked a team featuring a strong blend of youth and experience for the Commonwealth Games,” said Molloy today.

“Tall Ferns veterans such as Micaela Cocks, Toni Farnworth, and Natalie Purcell will lead admirably, whilst other talented Australian WNBL players Kalani Purcell, Chevannah Paalvast, and Jordan Hunter will provide scoring power and great defense. 

“I am particularly excited, however, by the emergence of two very young Tall Ferns in Charlisse Leger-Walker and Zara Jillings. Amazingly Charlisse is only 16 years old, but she plays with the poise of a much older player and is a very clever playmaker. Similarly Zara is only 19 and is a freshman starter for Fordham University, but also really impressed during the Asia Cup campaign in 2017.

“The selected team is small, but fast and skilled, and we hope to play a great brand of basketball during the Games,” Molloy added.

Leger-Walker, a Year 12 student at St Peter’s School Cambridge, is set to become the youngest player to represent the Tall Ferns and the third member of her family to represent New Zealand at senior level following sister Krystal and mother Leanne.

Krystal, a sophmore guard at the University of Northern Colorado, also debuted for the Tall Ferns as a teenager back in 2014. Leanne is of course a two-time Olympian having attended the 2000 and 2004 Olympics with the Tall Ferns.

Needless to say Charlisse wasn’t the only member of her family to be excited about her selection.

“My mum was really excited. She has a bit of a poker face, but beneath that seriousness she was really happy. I told Krystal straight away as she was asking me every day if I was in the team, she is so excited that I am going to the Commonwealth Games.”

Having attended two training camps already, Leger-Walker feels comfortable in the Tall Ferns environment.

“The other girls treat me the same as everyone else and I don’t feel like I should step back. The senior players like Natalie and Micaela, who have a lot of experience in this team, are really good and treat me like any other player.”

Being the youngest member of the team is not an entirely strange scenario for the Kiwi playmaker.

“Since I was about 11 years-old, filling in for my sisters teams, I have played with older players so that’s the way I have been brought up. I think it has also worked well that I have played for the Junior Tall Ferns at a young age so it makes the transition to this team so much easier. Playing up in the age-groups has really benefitted my game skills and my basketball IQ,”

Balancing her school studies and playing international basketball presents a challenge that Leger-Walker is confident she can handle.

“I’m going to miss three weeks of school so it is going to be difficult. This term there are a lot of internals that I will have to catch up on in term two. Last year when I was away with New Zealand U16’s it worked out better, as it was mainly revision work at school. My teachers are really excited for me and we have been working together to ensure I don’t miss out on any credits. I’m really busy, but it’s pretty cool,” she added.

The rest of the squad contains nine of the players that attended the 2017 Asia Cup in Bangalore last July.

The other players not in Bangalore last year are Jordan Hunter and Erin Rooney. Hunter, the former Counties-Manukau guard, returns having missed the whole of the 2017 international campaign after incurring an ACL injury in the opening round of the Women’s Basketball Championship in Auckland last year.

Rooney last played for the national team at the 2016 FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France and most recently has been playing in the Swiss National League for Troistorrents.

Molloy will have a number of experienced Australian Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) players to call upon including Kalani Purcell who plays for his Melbourne Boomers club side.

Micaela Cocks (Townsville Fire), Toni Farnworth (Perth Lynx) and Chevannah Paalvast (Canberra Capitals) are the other current WNBL players.

Cocks, a three-time WNBL championship winner with Townsville, is the only survivor from the Tall Ferns team that won a silver medal at the 2006 Games in Melbourne – the last time basketball was included in the four-yearly event. Although her former teammate Jody Cameron will be there as Assistant Coach.

Cocks is also a veteran of the 2008 Beijing Olympics campaign as is another senior member of the squad, Natalie Taylor.

Molloy is excited about the talent at his disposal and is looking forward to building the team and the culture for the Commonwealth Games and beyond.

“The mission is to develop the New Zealand team into one of the top teams in the FIBA Asia qualification zone and we want to make a fast start at the Commonwealth Games also. I want to get off to a great start and we want to hit that tournament full steam.” Molloy added.

The Tall Ferns will head into a pre-Games training camp before opening their Commonwealth Games campaign with a game against Malaysia on 5 April in Cairns. 

New Zealand Tall Ferns Team:

Jessica Bygate (Sandringham Sabres, Australia) 
Micaela Cocks (Townsville Fire, Australia) 
Antonia Farnworth (Perth Lynx, Australia) 
Deena Franklin (Harbour Heat, NZ) 
Jordan Hunter (Sturt Sabres, Australia) 
Zara Jillings (Fordham University, USA) 
Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato Wizards/St Peter’s School, Cambridge) 
Chevannah Paalvast (Canberra Capitals, Australia) 
Kalani Purcell (Melbourne Boomers, Australia) 
Erin Rooney (Troistorrents, Switzerland) 
Josie Stockill (Sunbury Jets, Australia) 
Natalie Taylor (Brisbane Spartans, Australia)  


Head Coach - Guy Molloy 
First Assistant Coach – Jody Cameron 
Second Assistant Coach – Aik Ho 
Team Manager – Denise Beede  • Physiotherapist – Ariane Carroll  • Strength and Conditioning Coach – Gavin Cross 


Jessica Bygate

Sandringham Sabres (Australia)
Position: Forward
Height 1.85m
Born: January 10, 1992
Junior Association – Nelson
High School – Nelson College for Girls

Played 4 games for the Tall Ferns at the FIBA Asia Cup in 2017.
Debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2013.
Also represented New Zealand at the FIBA 3x3 World Cup in Mongolia in 2017.
Graduated from Dickinson State University in 2014.
Bygate was selected in the WBC All Star Five after averaging 16.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game for the Nelson Sparks in the 2015 WBC. 
Had previously won a WBC championship with the Sparks in 2012. 
Played Australian WNBL for Adelaide Lightning in the 2015-16 season and Melbourne Boomers in 2016-17.
Won a Big V Division 1 title with Sunbury Jets in 2016.
Currently playing for Sandringham Sabres in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL).

Micaela Cocks

Townsville Fire (Australia)
Position – Combo guard
Height – 1.74m
Born: May 2nd, 1986
Junior Association – North Harbour
High School – Takapuna Grammar School

Debuted for the Tall Ferns at the 2005 William Jones Cup tournament in Taiwan.
Cocks will be appearing at her second Commonwealth Games having won a silver medal at the 2006 Melbourne Games and took up a scholarship at University of Oregon later that same year playing four seasons with the Ducks.
Cocks played for the Ferns at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Played all 6 games for the Tall Ferns at the FIBA Asia Cup in 2017.
Cocks is a three-time Australian WNBL Championship winner with the Townsville Fire.
Won the 2015 Australian WNBL Grand Final MVP Award averaging 14.0pts, 5.5rebs and 4.0 assists in the Grand final series.
Cocks has signed to play her eighth consecutive season with the Fire for the 2018-19 season.

Tony Farnworth 

Perth Lynx / Perry Lakes Hawks (Australia)
Position – guard
Height – 1.81m
Born: May 10th, 1987
Junior Association – Canterbury
High School – Christchurch Girls High School

Debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2008. 
Played all 6 games for the Tall Ferns at the FIBA Asia Cup in 2017 averaging 7.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Farnworth played for the Christchurch Sirens in the Australian WNBL in 2007-8. 
Following the Sirens only season in the WNBL she played for Dandenong Rangers (2009-10), Bendigo Spirit (2010-11) and Adelaide Lightning (2011-12) before moving to Perth.
Farnworth has subsequently played six consecutive seasons in Perth.

Deena Franklin

Harbour Breeze
Position: Forward
Born: February 5th, 1995
Height: 1.86m
Junior Association – North Harbour
High School: Westlake Girls High

Franklin’s route to the senior national team is different to the rest of the team in that she has been domiciled in New Zealand throughout her basketball career.
Debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2014.
Played 3 games for the Tall Ferns at the FIBA Asia Cup in 2017.
She played the 2016 WBC season for Waitakere Lady Rangers when Harbour Breeze took a sabbatical but otherwise has stayed loyal to North Harbour.
Won a WBC championship title with the Breeze in 2014.
Also represented New Zealand at the FIBA 3x3 World Cup in China in 2016 and Mongolia in 2017.

Jordan Hunter

Sturt Sabres (Adelaide, Australia)
Position: Guard
Born: August 20, 1990
Height: 1.68m
Local Association – Counties Manukau
High School: St Kentigern College

Hunter made her Tall Ferns debut against Japan in 2010.
Most recently played for the Tall Ferns at the 2016 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France.
Graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 2014 where she averaged 8.8 points and a team-leading 3.7 assists.
Hunter was selected in the All Star Five at the 2015 WBC, her team, Auckland Counties Manukau Hawks finished runners-up. Hunter led the competition in points (20.3ppg) and assists (4.5apg).
Played for Australian WNBL club Adelaide Lightning in 2016-17.
Played five games for Sturt Sabres in 2017 before suffering a season ending ACL injury.

Charlisse Leger-Walker

Waikato Wizards, St Peter’s School, Cambridge
Position: Guard
Born September 15, 2001
Height: 1.74m
Local Association – Waikato
High School: St Peter’s School, Cambridge

Leger-Walker will be making her Tall Ferns debut at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and is set to become the youngest player to play for the New Zealand senior team.
Leger-Walker has already played a considerable amount of age-group international basketball. In 2017 alone she played at the FIBA U17 Oceania Championships in Guam and the FIBA U16 Asia Championships in India. She averaged 15 points per game at both tournaments, leading the New Zealand scoring on both occasions.
She has also won multiple New Zealand junior titles with both St Peter’s School and Waikato Basketball.
Debuted for the Waikato Wizards in the NZ WBC in 2017 as a 15 year-old and led the regular season in scoring (21.2ppg) and rebounding (9.8rpg).
Mother Leanne attended the 1990 and 1994 Olympics with the Tall Ferns and sister Krystal has also represented the Tall Ferns.

Zara Jillings

Fordham University (USA) / Harbour Breeze (NZ)
Position: Guard
Born: May 30th, 1998
Height: 1.75m
Junior Association – North Harbour
High School: Westlake Girls High

Debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2017.
Played 3 games for the Tall Ferns at the FIBA Asia Cup in 2017.
Jillings graduated from Westlake Girls in 2016 and has recently completed a successful freshman season at Fordham University. 
Jillings was something of a globetrotter in 2016 playing for the Junior Tall Ferns in China and Fiji as well as representing New Zealand at the FIBA 3x3 World Cup in Kazakhstan. 

Chevannah Paalvast

Canberra Capitals (Australia)
Position: Swingman
Born September 4th, 1991
Height: 1.80m
Junior Association – Waitakere
High School: Massey High School

Debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2015.
Played all 6 games for the Tall Ferns at the FIBA Asia Cup in 2017 averaging 5.2 points per game.
Paalvast spent 5 years at Monmouth University, New Jersey and graduated in 2014. In her senior year she averaged 13.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Became just the 17th player to score over 1,000 points for Monmouth.
Paalvast then joined Micaela Cocks at Townsville Fire for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons helping them win a WNBL championship in her first season with the club.
In 2017-18 played for Canberra Capitals where she was named Defensive Player of the Year.

Kalani Purcell

Melbourne Boomers (Australia)
Position Forward
Born January 13, 1995
Height 1.84m
Junior Association – Waikato
High School – John Paul College, Queensland

Purcell comes from a family that has produced two other Tall Ferns in recent years, older sisters Charmian Mellars and Natalie Taylor.
First capped for the Tall Ferns in 2013.
Purcell was the leading rebounder at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in India averaging 13.9 rebounds per game. In addition she averaged 10.3 points per game.
Purcell had a stellar career at BYU Provo where she was named to the AA-WCC Women’s First Team in 2016 and 2017. 
Purcell became BYU’s single-season record holder in total rebounds (416) in 2016. In her final season she averaged 12.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game earning the 2016-17 WCC Defensive Player of the Year award.
Averaged 5.3 points and 7.6 rebounds in her debuted season with the Melbourne Boomers, the 2017-18 Australian WNBL Finalists.

Erin Rooney

Troistorrents, Switzerland
Position: Guard
Born September 3rd, 1990
Height 1.73m
Local Association: Canterbury
High School: Marion College

Debuted for the Tall Ferns in Japan, 2009
Last played for the national team at 2016 FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France,.
MVP at 2008 Under 19 National Championships won by Canterbury.
Then spent 4 years playing in the USA – two years at Monmouth University followed by a further two years at Fordham University.
Had an outstanding final year at Fordham leading the Rams to their first Atlantic 10 title in programme history.
Rooney became the first player in Fordham women’s basketball history to record 500 points, 200 rebounds and 150 assists in the same season.
Played professionally in France with Arras in 2014-15 and the following year at Calais. This was followed by a stint with Polish club Artego Bydgoszcz.
Most recently Rooney has played with Troistorrents in the Swiss League averaging 11 points per game.

Josephine Stockill

Sunbury Jets (Melbourne, Australia)
Position: Centre
Born December 29th, 1993
Height 1.86m
Junior Association: Hawkes Bay
High School: Napier Girls High School

Debuted for the Tall Ferns on the tour of China in 2014.
Played all 6 games for the Tall Ferns at the FIBA Asia Cup in 2017.
Stockill graduated from Colgate University in 2016 after an outstanding four-year career in which she set a number of records.
Stockill ended her Colgate career as the programme's career leader for blocked shots in a game (13), season (105) and career (241).
Played for the Taranaki Trojans in the WBC in 2011 and 2012.
Won a Big V League Championship with Sunbury Jets in 2017.

Natalie Taylor

Brisbane Spartans (Australia)
Position: Forward
Born: December 24, 1982
Height: 1.83m
Junior Association: Counties Manukau
High School: MacLeans College

Taylor (nee Purcell), older sister of Kalani and younger sibling of former international Charmian, debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2007.
Played alongside Micaela Cocks at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 
Played all 6 games for the Tall Ferns at the FIBA Asia Cup in 2017.
Taylor was MVP of the 2007 Women’s CBL finals helping steer Harbour Breeze to the title, she then played for Christchurch Sirens in the 2007-8 Australian WNBL season.
She subsequently played four seasons for Logan Thunder in the Australian WNBL either side of a stint in Ireland.
Natalie helped University of Limerick to the 2011 Irish Superleague title and was named Import Player of the Year.
Currently playing for Brisbane Spartans, the 2017 Queensland State Basketball League Champions.

Head Coach, Guy Molloy

Molloy was recently appointed head coach after a spell as associate coach in 2017.
Molloy brings a wealth of experience to the Tall Ferns programme having held a variety of positions in the Australian NBL and WNBL. In addition he has held positions with various Australian national teams most recently the Junior Men’s team that won silver at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championships in Lithuania.
The 2013 WNBL Coach of the Year, Molloy is currently head coach of the Melbourne Boomers – 2018 WNBL Finalists. 

Assistant Coach, Aik Ho

Auckland based Ho has been involved in the Tall Ferns programme since 2004.
Ho has had a long association with a number of players through his involvement with age group teams, initially at North Harbour and then Waitakere West Basketball Association.
Currently head coach of Auckland Dream.
In addition to his commitment to women’s basketball coaching he works as a Basketball Development Manager for Auckland Basketball Services Ltd.

Assistant Coach, Jody Cameron

Jody comes from one of New Zealand basketball’s most famous families, the daughter of long-time coach Mata Cameron and sister of FIBA Hall of Famer Pero Cameron.
A former Tall Fern Jody played for New Zealand at both the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games brother Pero will be an assistant coach with the Tall Blacks.