Caption: Ashlee Strawbridge, Tayla Dalton, Sharne Pupuke-Robati, and Charlisse Leger-Walker reunite at the 2020 Tall Ferns Camp, after winning silver medals at the 2019 FIBA U18 3×3 World Cup.
Auckland talents Sharne Robati and Tayla Dalton are two of the 11 uncapped rookies taking part in the Sky Sport Tall Ferns camp ahead of the Showcase this Saturday (1 AUG) at The Trusts Arena.
The promising youngsters have spent the week in camp with the squad, learning the ins and outs of what it means and takes to be a Tall Fern.
Former Carmel College standout and New Zealand age-group representative Tayla Dalton says the camp couldn’t come quick enough after receiving her invitation.
“As much as I love training by myself, I was just super amped to get in after having not done too much team stuff because of COVID-19.
“There were a few nerves Sunday morning before I got here, but I was lucky enough to take part in something similar last year with the Tall Ferns. Having a few more of us young ones made it a little less daunting this time around.
“The Tall Ferns are the pinnacle of basketball for us girls and while it can be quite challenging, I understand how fortunate I am to be a part of this special environment and how valuable a learning experience it is.”
Among the familiar faces for Dalton is Sharne Robati. The former Mount Albert Grammar forward was a team-mate of Dalton’s in the silver-medal winning Under-18 Women’s 3×3 World Cup team in Mongolia last year, and the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Belarus 12 months prior.
The two most recently went up against each other in the 2019 Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) Grand Final, with Robati’s Auckland Dream taking the crown over Dalton’s Harbour Breeze.
Robati says she enjoys rubbing shoulders with more experienced players and will use this time with some of the country’s best to pick their brains.
“It was cool to be in the mix with the Dream last year and it gave me a taste of what women’s basketball is like.
“One of the biggest takeaways for me has been the need to be versatile. The level of ability with these girls and the games they play is too high to just be good in one area.
“Being able to learn off girls like Penina [Davidson] and Charlisse [Leger-Walker] is big and, if I can take some of what they do and work it into my game, I’ll be moving in the right direction.
“I’m going to put my best foot forward with whatever is asked of me this week and try to just soak up as much information as I can.”
As grueling as the fitness and drills may be within the national set-up, what’s equally as challenging is taking in the structure and playbook.
Dalton says there are a few differences to the way the Tall Ferns operate than what she’s been exposed to with junior national setups.
“I think with age-group stuff there’s just so many people and it’s all done in such a short amount of time that there isn’t the same amount of detail as to what the Tall Ferns have.
“Another thing with the Tall Ferns is that most of them are adults and so there’s a greater level of responsibility. You don’t really have anyone telling you what or how to do things, so you need to be a bit more proactive. I came to understand that this is how professionals carry themselves and operate so, if I want to make this my job, I need to get used to it.”
Following this weekend’s showcase, Dalton will embark on a four-year scholarship at St Mary’s College, California. Robati intends to take up teaching degree in the near future, while also getting herself ready for the upcoming women’s NBL League, which is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
- The Sky Sport Tall Ferns Showcase will be played on Saturday 1 August at The Trusts Arena at 5pm, ahead of the Sal’s NBL Grand Final at 7:30pm. Tickets via www.TicketFairy.com. Adults, $20. Students $10. Children under 12, $5.
- Official Sky Sport Tall Ferns website: www.TallFerns.basketball
- Follow the Tall Ferns social media channels: @TallFerns Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Hashtag: #TallFerns