The Sky Sport Tall Ferns target for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup is to finish in the top four to qualify for the 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament.
Drawn in Group A alongside Japan, Korea and India, the Tall Ferns need to finish in the top three in their group to have a chance to make it to the semi-finals and a coveted top-four spot. Ranked 36th in the world, they are 34 places above group rivals India (70th) but behind South Korea (19th) and Japan (8th).
Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy is aware that the upcoming campaign will be no easy task.
“This is the region’s premier event, every team there has worked hard to be there and will be taking it extremely seriously.
“Our group is a challenging one, Japan and Korea have won the Asia Cup more than any two teams ever. They have tremendous support behind them but so do we. We’re excited to take them on.”
The Tall Ferns open their account next Monday (27 Sep) against South Korea followed by Japan (Tue 28 Sep) and then India (Wed 29 Sep)
Despite not winning a game. Korea are coming off a decent showing at the recent Tokyo Olympics having lost to reigning European Champions Serbia by just four points and by the same margin to World no.2 Spain.
Ten of the 12 players that competed in Tokyo will be in Amman, although a significant absence will be forward Ji-su Park who has WNBA commitments with the Las Vegas Aces.
One of the 10 who will be on show is Leeseul Kang, who terrorised the Tall Ferns defence when they last met in Auckland in 2019.
Kang scored a game-high 21 points, making all five of her three-point attempts that day.
Hyejin Park will be another to watch. The experienced point guard dished five assists and scored eight points in that 2019 clash at Trusts Arena.
The Tall Ferns won their last encounter in Auckland 69-65, but in an equally tight encounter lost 58-52 at the 2019 Asia Cup in Bangalore. The overall record between the two teams is 16-6 in favour of South Korea.
In contrast, Japan have made significant changes from their successful Olympic campaign.
They have captivated the basketball world with their run to the Olympic final, playing the game at a mesmerising pace combined with adroit shooting and a joyful exuberance.
Rui Machida, arguably the best point guard at the Olympics, and Maki Takada who scored 17 points in the final against USA are two of seven players who will sit out the Asia Cup to give opportunities to younger players.
Amongst the five that will suit up for the Olympic silver medallists and defending champions of the Asia Cup are Saki Hayashi and Himawari Akaho.
Sharpshooter Hayashi averaged 11.3 points per game in Tokyo, shooting the three-ball at an eye catching 48.6% (17/35). Power forward Akaho averaged 9.3 points per game as well as leading Japan’s rebounding count claiming 7.3 boards per outing.
The Tall Ferns overall record against Japan is identical to that against Korea, 6 wins and 16 losses.
Far less is known about the Indian team who New Zealand face in their third and final pool game. What is certain is they too have sisters make up their squad – Pushpa and Sathiya Senthil Kumar.
The two teams have only played each other on six occasions with New Zealand winning in each time. The last fixture was in 2018 at the William Jones Cup where the Tall Ferns won a one sided affair 114-39 with Ash Karaitiana scoring 38 points on debut.
Group B is made up of Australia, China, Chinese Taipei and the Philippines.
The Sky Sports Tall Ferns FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Squad
- Brooke Blair – Brisbane Capitals
- Tessa Boagni – Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats
- Penina Davidson – Melbourne Boomers/Nunawading Spectres
- Mary Goulding – Bendigo Spirit/East Perth Eagles
- Lauryn Hippolite – Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats
- Ash Karaitiana – Melbourne Boomers/Southern District Spartans
- Charlisse Leger-Walker – Washington State University/Waikato Wizards
- Krystal Leger-Walker – Washington State University/Waikato Wizards
- Chevannah Paalvast – Bendigo Spirit/Logan Thunder
- Kalani Purcell – Sydney Uni Flames/Southern District Spartans
- Zoe Richards – Otago Gold Rush/Rockingham Flames
- Ash Taia – Canberra Capitals/Logan Thunder