As the Tall Ferns prepare for a pair of games against Latvia this weekend head coach Kennedy Kereama has had a few days to reflect on the efforts of his charges in China.
The team won two of its six games losing twice to the hosts and splitting the two games against the Czech Republic and Montenegro. Despite mixed results Kereama took heart from the observations of the opposition coaches.
“We got better every game and the European coaches were complimentary of how much fight we have, how hard we play and how talented a team we have.
“For me those comments are worth a great deal to us as the Europeans, in my opinion, are world leaders in our sport and they recognize the trademarks of our programme.
“We have started to build a very solid base at both ends of the floor. Offensively we are starting to kick into gear with a well balanced scoring attack from fast break, to post play, penetration and perimeter play.”
More good news for the coach is that his squad has been bolstered by the arrival of Josie Stockill and the vastly experienced Jillian Harmon. Both players will add to the permutations the coaching staff will use amongst the forwards.
Harmon arrived in Riga, the capital of Latvia, having recently completed a highly successful season in Italy. The 29 year old averaged 18.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game as her club side Le Mura Lucca won the Italian League regular season title. Harmon’s seven seasons of professional experience will add significantly to Kereama’s forward options.
Stockill will also add to those choices, the 1.86m forward has recently graduated from Colgate University, New York, after a standout college career.
The Hawkes Bay native ended her four years as Colgate’s all time leading shot blocker (241 blocks) and also holds the record for the most blocks in a single season -105 achieved in the recent season. In addition she finished 5th all time in rebounding (630 rebounds) and 15th all time in scoring (1,081 points).
Stockill also had the honour of being named in the 2016 Patriot League Academic All-League team.
Kereama has also been pleased with the defensive effort of the team.
“We held the Czech’s to six points in a quarter which is unheard of really. When we lock into our rules we can be very damaging to opposition teams.
“However we still have a few things to add and as always we are never satisfied with where we are at so will continue to build and improve.”
The only downside from China was having to release two players as Kereama has opted for experience as the team builds towards the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France next month.
The two young players that made their international debuts in China, Brooke Blair and Katelin Noyer, have been released from the squad. Both will feature in the New Zealand Select team to play China B in Auckland over Queens Birthday Weekend.
“It was tough having to make selections and leave both Katelin and Brooke behind as we move on to the next part of our journey, said Kereama.
“They have both been great and it’s always tough to leave someone out when they haven’t put a foot wrong,” he added.
But now the focus shifts to the two games against Latvia.
Game 1 v Latvia – Friday May 27, tip-off 5pm local time (2.00am Saturday NZ time)
Game 2 v Latvia – Saturday May 28, tip-off 5pm local time (2.00am Sunday NZ time)