Junior Tall Ferns Announced For U17 Oceania Champs

U17 Women’s head coach Josh Thompson has named his Junior Ferns squad for the upcoming FIBA U17 Women’s Oceania Championship – held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea from 2–7 October 2023.

The squad includes: Kaelani Albert-Neha, Arna Bright, Elise Carline, Elise Gilbert, Katie Harrington, Waiheke Kohunui, Olivia Lassey, Tannika Leger-Walker, Kavanah Lene, Rebecca Moors, Amy Pateman and Tia Pavihi.

In addition, the following non-travelling Reserves have been named as Sophie Wilkinson, Annika Scott, Molly Morrow, Kiama Tahere, Eibhlin Leeson and Alexa Duff. In the event of one of the squad of 12 being unable to travel, a Reserve will be named in their place.

This is the first tournament of the Junior Tall Ferns age group cycle within FIBA’s Oceania zone, encompassing a three year period that culminates in the U19 Women’s World Cup in 2025. If the Junior Tall Ferns can finish in the top two of the FIBA U17 Women’s Oceania Championship in October – something they’ve been able to achieve in all nine previous editions of the tournament dating back to 2004 – they’ll earn a ticket to the FIBA U18 Women’s Asian Championships in 2024.

In turn, a top four finish at the Asian Champs ensures that the Junior Tall Ferns can compete in the FIBA U19 Women’s World Cup in 2025, which in itself would create history as New Zealand has never qualified for this pinnacle age group tournament in the past.

Coach Thompson has selected his squad of 12 following the U17 national camp at Auckland’s Saint Kentigern College back in April, where 25 female athletes showcased their skills in the hopes of being selected to represent New Zealand. The U17 Aon Nationals – held in Wellington in July this year – also impacted on this final squad, with Albert-Neha, Bright (MVP), Carline and Pavihi all making the U17 Nationals Tournament team.

Five athletes selected for the squad of 12 – Pateman, Lassey, Lene, Moors and Elise Gilbert – also made headlines earlier this year when they were named by the NBA for the Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp in Abu Dhabi; all five also chosen to attend the NBA Academy Women’s Games in Atlanta the following month.

“Obviously our National Camp was important as we get to see the girls up close, get to know them a little better face-to-face rather than just watching them at a tournament – getting to know them off the court is just as important to knowing how they play on the court,” says Thompson.

“And seeing how they compete against each other in an environment where it can be quite stressful, how well they can handle that and rise above it, makes that national camp an important part of the process.

“And the other factor was U17 Nationals, that was a big one as a couple of girls that didn’t make the national camp were able to make a name for themselves at U17s – they kind of just picked themselves based on their play, as U17’s is a tough tournament setting that’s comparable to an international tournament – in that players need to sustain their competitiveness throughout the week.”

One athlete who was unable to compete in either the National Camp or U17 settings was Tannika Leger-Walker, as she continues to recover from an ACL injury.

“Tannika’s experience being at the U17 World Cup last year, you can’t really teach that kind of stuff. She’s played on the world stage, so her experience and leadership is a big thing for us – as a staff we felt that her inclusion to this group as a value asset was too good to ignore. Her ACL injury was major but in the past we’ve seen players like Lauren Whittaker come back better than ever from this type of injury, so we’re hoping we can get the same out of Tannika when she’s fully fit.”

Thompson says that playing in the FIBA U17 Women’s Oceania Championship – and being in Papua New Guinea – will be challenging for the squad for a number of reasons.

“The heat is the first thing we’ll have to deal with, it’ll be an adjustment for our athletes who aren’t used to that climate, and playing in a different country can be tough for some athletes too.

“It won’t be easy to finish in the top two, we know Samoa are getting better and we need to gel as a team in order to be competitive against the likes of them. Not having a pre-departure camp is tough but the girls know what they need to do to compete; hopefully we’ve been able to get them sufficiently ready to compete, so they can achieve a podium finish and get to the final.”

The Junior Tall Ferns travel to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in early October for the FIBA U17 Women’s Oceania Championship from 2–7 October. All games will be shown on www.youtube.com/fiba and a tournament draw will be announced closer to the date.


NZ U17 Women’s Squad for U17 Oceania Champs 2023

  • Kaelani Albert-Neha, Waikato Basketball
  • Arna Bright, Taranaki Basketball
  • Elise Carline, Basketball Otago
  • Elise Gilbert, Waikato basketball
  • Katie Harrington, Outside of NZ
  • Waiheke Kohunui, Rotorua Basketball
  • Olivia Lassey, Tauranga City Basketball
  • Tannika Leger-Walker, Waikato Basketball
  • Kavanah Lene, Canterbury Basketball
  • Rebecca Moors, Harbour Basketball
  • Amy Pateman, Harbour Basketball
  • Tia Pavihi, Wellington Basketball


NZ U17 Women’s Squad – Non-traveling Reserves

  • Sophie Wilkinson, Basketball Taranaki
  • Annika Scott, Outside of NZ
  • Molly Morrow, Canterbury Basketball
  • Kiama Tahere, Northland Basketball
  • Eibhlin Leeson, Canterbury Basketball
  • Alexa Duff, Otago Basketball


Head Coach – Josh Thompson

Assistant Coach – Ryan Dubbeldam

Assistant Coach – Bronwen Davidson

Team Manager – Kat Wills

Physiotherapist – Shannon Spicer

Team Doctor – Dr Logan Poloai