The series underlines an already impressive build up for the Oceania Championships in August for a Tall Ferns roster that may well be peaking for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, but one that is in the meantime also focused on qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Head coach Kennedy Kereama is delighted to add a significant home series of games to the William Jones Cup in Chinese Taipei ahead of taking on the Aussies.

“It is very exciting to be hosting Japan on our shores in a three test series pre Oceania Champs. Playing games at home in front of our own fans and stakeholders is important to the growth of our game and exposure of the Tall Ferns brand. We are blessed with some amazing players on our roster, players who are enjoying great success for clubs and colleges all over the world and the opportunity to inspire our up and coming junior players by playing in front of home crowds will be a real boost for us.”

Kereama says the focus will be twofold, one to perform well against world class opposition, but also to conclude preparations for the Melbourne and Tauranga Oceania Championships against the Opals, with the winner to qualify directly to Rio 2016.

“This series gives us a great platform to finish our preparation before playing the Opals. The Japanese are fierce competitors and boost some of the best talent in Asia including Asami Yoshida and Mamiya Yuka, both were named in the all-star five at the 2013 Asian Championships. The Japanese play a very unique and quick style of basketball, which will be a great test. Their quickness and ability to spread the floor with precision three-point shooting will give our transition and perimeter defence a real challenge.”

Director of Japan Women’s National Team, Mr. Masahiro Takahashi, says his team is looking forward to the series and trip to New Zealand.

“First of all, we would like to appreciate Basketball New Zealand and Tall Ferns for this wonderful opportunity. This series would be very important preparation games towards qualification to 2016 Rio Olympic game.

“There are a lot of tall players on Tall Ferns so we consider that this is the best opportunity to develop our inside plays. We would put our best effort in the games with Japanese style basketball. We look forward seeing a lot of basketball fans at the games.

“We hope that this series would be the beginning for mutual friendship among Japan and New Zealand basketball family.”

The games will be played within a week in August, with the first two at Cowles Stadium in Christchurch on the 5th (11am tip off with the free tickets provided to local primary schools in a special Canterbury Basketball initiative thanks to the support of Mainland Foundation) and Friday 7th at 7pm. The third game will be played on Sunday 9th at EA Stadium in Ashburton, tipping off at the family friendly time of 2pm. Ticket details for all games will be announced in the days ahead.

Paul Duggan, General Manager Canterbury Basketball Association says the city can’t wait to host the series.

“The Japan test series is a great opportunity to have a showcase event to promote both the sport and the city. This will be the first International basketball played in Christchurch for over 10 years, and will provide some exciting and faced paced women’s basketball action.

“Christchurch and Japan have some strong links, including the Sister City relationship with Kurashiki, a strong tourism and exporting market, and are also intrinsically linked through the tragic events of the Christchurch earthquake.”

The CBA and the Canterbury Rams will run coaching clinics throughout the week, and the Tall Ferns will include a number of open practices for the public. The Wednesday morning game will feature a special invitation to local schools and coaches to attend, with details to be confirmed in the next week.

The series with Japan marks the final stages of the build up towards the Oceania Series against Australia in Melbourne on August 15 and Tauranga on August 17, with the winner of that series earning direct entry to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The team will also play in the William Jones tournament in Chinese Taipei in late July before returning home to take on the Japanese.

The Tall Ferns assemble in South Auckland for trials to select the team to prepare for the Oceania Series against Australia, with 14 players set to be named for the William Jones Cup in Chinese Taipei and then the series against Japan.

Tall Ferns Invited to Selection Camp
Point Guards
Micaela Cocks, Townsville Fire (AUS), Jordan Hunter, Southeast Missouri State & Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks, Shea Crotty, Canterbury Wildcats

Shooting Guards
Stella Beck, Saint Mary’s College of California (USA), Samara Gallaher, Hume City Broncos (AUS), Jasmine Davis, University  of Wyoming (USA), Moengaroa Subritzki, University of Maryland Eastern Shore (USA), Morgan Roberts, Harbour Breeze Small

Natalie Taylor, Logan Thunder (AUS), Kalani Purcell, Brigham Young University (USA), Chevannah Paalvast, Southern Peninsular Sharks (AUS), Deena Franklin, Harbour Breeze, Hailey Purcell, Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks, Jacinta Beckley, Seattle University (USA)

Power Forwards
Jillian Harmon, Townsville Fire (AUS), Oceana Otago, Lisa Wallbutton, Willeton Tigers (AUS), Connie Poletti, Canterbury Wildcats, Jess Bygate, Nelson Sparks, Jess Tuki, Waikato Wizards

Megan Craig, Lakeside Lightning (AUS), Penina Davidson, University of California (USA), Tessa Boagni, California State University (USA), Josie Stockill, Colgate University (USA)

Players unavailable: Antonia Edmondson, Maia Wilson, Erin Rooney, Rhaiah Spooner-Knight, Krystal Leger-Walker, Georgia Agnew (injury), Alicia Carline (College commitments)

16-19 July, Selection Camp, South Auckland
20-26 July, Preparation Camp, South Auckland
27-31 July, William Jones Cup, Chinese Taipei 5, 7, 9 August, Warm up games, Japan Series in Christchurch and Ashburton
15 August, Oceania Series, v Australia, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
17 August, Oceania Series, v Australia, ASB Arena, Tauranga