Excluding a small number of debutants, Tall Ferns Head Coach Kennedy Kereama has largely turned to the tried and trusted in today’s naming the 2017 Tall Ferns, the team tasked with qualifying for the FIBA World Cup through the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup next month.

“We are very happy with the shape of the team and believe that this squad will give us our best chance of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Spain,” says Kereama.

Eight players within this team attended the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in France last year and a ninth, Jess Bygate, played a number of internationals in the lead up to the OQT. The four exceptions are the experienced Natalie Taylor and rookies Georgia Agnew, Zara Jillings and Rebecca Ott.

Taylor returns having missed the 2016 campaign as she took time out for the birth of her first child. Taylor, fellow 2008 Olympians Micaela Cocks and Jillian Harmon, and Toni Farnworth (nee Edmondson), have considerable international playing experience between them. Add Chevannah Paalvast to the mix and Kereama has the experienced spine of the squad he’ll need, yet the development of team hasn’t been ignored.

“It is also exciting to add three new caps to the programme with Zara Jillings, Rebecca Ott and Georgia Agnew gaining selection. Those players came into camp and really impressed the coaching staff,” said Kereama.

At 22 years-old, Ott was invited to the selection camp on the advice of her Melbourne Boomers coach - and new Tall Ferns Assistant Coach - Guy Molloy. Coach Kereama says Ott was chanced upon, but immediately made an impact.

“Rebecca simply fell on our lap by chance, but her selection was far from that as she has really worked hard and will bring yet another very talented and tall guard into our squad.”

Agnew was a member of the New Zealand team that competed at the FIBA 3x3 World Championships in China last year, but will make her full international debut in the upcoming campaign.

“Georgia will also add some much needed depth to our point guard stocks and was also a stand out amongst our newcomers at camp," said Kereama.

Jillings, the youngest member of the travelling squad, will cover for the unavailable Natalie Taylor for the William Jones Cup. The 19 year old former North Harbour guard will then head back to Fordham University for her freshman season at the conclusion of that tournament.

All but two of the remainder of the squad are based in Australia. The exceptions are Jillian Harmon and Erin Rooney.

Cantabrian Rooney has recently returned from playing for Artego Bydgoszcz in the Polish League and Harmon, a veteran of seven seasons the Italian League, was a key member the 2017 championship winning Le Mura Lucca team.

Interest will also centre on the performances of up-and-comers Josie Stockill and Kalani Purcell. Both players completed stand out American college careers earlier this year and have recently moved into the professional ranks. Stockill graduated from Colgate University, New York State, and is now playing for Sunbury Jets in the Victorian Big V League. Purcell was WCC Defensive Player of the Year at Brigham Young University and recently joined Brisbane Spartans in the Queensland Basketball League on a short-term contract. Following the Tall Ferns campaign she will link with Molloy at Melbourne Boomers for her first season in the Australian WNBL.

Charlisse Leger-Walker, who spurred headlines after being named in the camp at only 15 years of age, will have to wait for that elusive first cap. Yet she excelled amongst the more experienced players in camp and that has been acknowledge by the coaching staff as she has been listed as a non-travelling reserve - a fantastic achievement for the Tall Ferns’ protégé. 

The Tall Ferns head to Taiwan for the William Jones Cup and then onto Singapore before they compete at its first FIBA Women’s Asia Cup tournament, which is the pinnacle event for the Tall Ferns in 2017 and one that Coach Kereama says they are building towards.

“During our selection camp the players were put to the test, and were placed under great physical and mental duress, as they would be at the Asian Cup. There is a very experienced core group of international basketball players in this squad and I believe they will lead the way.”

The 2017 Asia Cup will be staged in Bangalore from 23 to 29 July. For the first time Australia and New Zealand will compete at the tournament alongside six Asian teams. New Zealand has been drawn in Pool A alongside perennial powerhouse China, Chinese Taipei and the DPR of Korea. The top four teams from the tournament will qualify for the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup.

Tall Ferns Squad: Name / club or college / country its based

Georgia Agnew – Harbour Breeze / NZL
Jessica Bygate – Melbourne Boomers / Sandringham Sabres / AUS
Micaela Cocks – Townsville Fire / Mackay Meteorettes / AUS
Toni Farnworth (nee Edmondson) Perth Lynx / Perry Lakes Hawks /AUS
Deena Franklin – Harbour Breeze / NZL
Jillian Harmon – Le Mura Lucca / ITALY
Zara Jillings – Fordham University / USA*
Rebecca Ott – Melbourne Boomers / AUS
Chevannah Palvaast – Townsville Fire / Mackay Meteorettes / AUS
Kalani Purcell – Brisbane Spartans. Melbourne Boomers / AUS
Erin Rooney – Artego Bydgoszcz / POLAND
Josephine Stockill – Sunbury Jets / AUS
Natalie Taylor – Brisbane Spartans / AUS**

* Jillings only attending William Jones Cup
** Taylor attending Singapore and FIBA Asia Cup

Non-travelling reserves:

Tea Charlton – Nottingham University / Nottingham Wildcats / England
Charlisse Leger-Walker – Waikato Wizards / NZL
Krystal Leger-Walker – University of Northern Colorado / USA
Kayla Manuirirangi – Tulane University / USA
Katelin Noyer – Fresno State University / USA

Tall Ferns Programme:

William Jones Cup / 5-9 July / Taipei, Taiwan
Singapore Series / 11-16 July / Singapore
Preparation Camp / 18-22 July / Bangalore, India
FIBA Asia Women’s Cup (WC Qualifier) / 23-29 July, Bangalore, India

William Jones Cup – Competing Teams:

Japan, South Korea, India, Chinese Taipei, Chinese Taipei B

For more on the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup, go to the FIBA webpage here

Follow the Tall Ferns at @TallFerns on Twitter and Instagram.
For more go to www.basketball.org.nz and Basketball New Zealand’s social media channels: @BasketballNZ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.