U17 Women’s Team Named For U17 World Cup In Mexico

NZ U17’s women’s national team head coach, Mel Bennett has today named her squad of 12 athletes who will travel to Guanajuato, Mexico in July for the FIBA U17 Women’s World Cup.

The squad includes: Chanel Enriquez-Paea, Bailey Flavell, Olivia Hastings, Sophia Hickey, Keriana-Marie Hippolite, Pahlyss Hokianga, Jennifer Mailei, Taia McMechan, Graecyn Parahi, Cassidy Thomson, Kodee Williams-Sefo and Gia Vukona.

In addition, four non-travelling reserves have been named for this squad: Waikimihia Douglas-Karauna, Ophelia Powell, Emma Rogers and Storey Sadler.

Joining Coach Bennett on the staff are assistant coaches Sarah Molisa and Igor Cvjetkovic.


Eight Athletes Return from U16 Asian Champs

The roster is spearheaded by the talented duo of Bailey Flavell and Pahlyss Hokianga, who were the leading scorers for New Zealand at last year’s FIBA U16 Asian Champs with 14.8ppg and 12.6ppg respectively. Hokianga – who averaged a team-leading 4.4apg and 2.6 steals for the Kiwis – also made her debut for the Tall Ferns earlier this year at the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers in China. Both athletes saw action in the GJ Gardner Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa League last season, with Bailey winning a championship with the Northern Kahu.

They are among eight returnees from the NZ U16 National Team squad that earned a hard-fought bronze medal in Amman, Jordan in July 2023. Joining them is Hickey, a 6’2” forward who has been studying and playing at DME Academy in Florida for the past eight months, while Enriquez-Paea, Hippolite, and Mailei are currently all in the NBL1 women’s competition in Australia. Thomson, also based in Australia, recently won the National U18 Championship for NSW alongside Mailei.

These four new additions to the U17 national team are expected to add firepower to an already impressive squad. Williams-Sefo joins the team after initially being named in the 2022 U15 squad, before she was ruled out due to a pre-tour injury. Hastings, Vukona and McMechan are all Australian-based Kiwis who are also actively playing at NBL1 level; giving the team seven players with NBL1 experience.


“Ready to make an impact on the world stage”

Coach Bennett says it will be exciting to see how these additions to the squad can elevate the team at World Cup level.

“It’s amazing to have [Williams-Sefo] back with us, she fills so many gaps that we’ve had over the previous two years because she is super versatile and multi-positional. Hastings, Vukona and McMechan are all bottom-aged players, each with NBL1 experience who bring a fresh dose of disruption to the team,” says Bennett.

“We have stability with experience from previous tours and players who lead – starting with Flavell from Takapuna Girls Grammar and Harbour Basketball, alongside Hawkes Bay and Bridge Pa original Hokianga as our floor general. We have versatility with lengthy options, and we have a group of athletes who are ready to add their flavour to make an impact internationally on the world stage.”

Coach Bennett says there is plenty of work to be done over the next few months, as she looks to prepare the squad for the quality of competition that the team will face at FIBA World Cup level.

“We still have a lot of preparation work to do prior to getting on the plane, which will be helpful for us playing at altitude and will assist with acclimation; our team meets online this Friday to kick-start that process. Our aim is to put ourselves in the best possible position, physically and mentally prior to landing, to be at our best for the U17 World Cup.”


FIBA U17 Women’s World Cup

The FIBA U17 Women’s World Cup is the culmination of a three-year cycle for Basketball New Zealand’s U17 programme, which began in 2022 when the NZ U15 Women’s National Team finished second at the FIBA U15 Women’s Oceania Championship in Guam.

That placing earned the NZ U16 National Team a spot in last year’s FIBA U16 Asian Champs in Jordan, with the team finishing third at this event; good enough to qualify as one of 16 teams at the cycle’s pinnacle event, the FIBA U17 World Cup in Mexico.

The NZ U17 Women’s National Team will travel to Mexico for an eight-day preparation camp, prior to the start of the FIBA U17 World Cup on 13 July. They will face world-ranked no.15 Italy in group play on day one, followed by games against hosts Mexico and Mali. They will then move onto a Round of 16 that features crossover play against the other pools; the winner progressing to the quarter-final round.

Coach Bennett says that the squad needs to be prepared to be tested in the group stage by these elite opponents.

“Italy are a well-coached team with speed, length, physicality, but also play a structured systemic type of game. On Day two, tournament Hosts Mexico will be tough contenders for us – they’ll have a strong home crowd for that match up, and Mexico’s full court defence is disruptive; it will be critical for us to maintain ball security and execute our style of play.

“Our last game of pool play is Mali – another lengthy, physical opponent who will also be fighting for a top eight spot. Our pool placing will determine classification games where we cross into Pools C/D which each have powerhouse teams – including USA, France and Australia.

“Every team at this level has truly earned a spot to be there, and we are competing as one of the top 16 countries in the world. For us, it’s also about opportunity, exposure, experience, and representation – making sure we do a great job of leading the way of putting our identity, culture and brand on the map for our young female athletes and women’s national teams.”

NZ U17 Women’s National Team for FIBA U17 World Cup 2024

Chanel Enriquez-Paea, Gold Coast Rollers (NBL1)

Bailey Flavell, Harbour Basketball Association

Olivia Hastings, Norths Bears (NBL1)

Sophia Hickey, DME Academy

Keriana-Marie Hippolite, Brisbane Capitals (NBL1)

Pahlyss Hokianga, Basketball Hawkes Bay

Jennifer Mailei, Bankstown Bruins (NBL1)

Taia McMechan, Nunawading Spectres (NBL1)

Graecyn Parahi, Basketball Hawkes Bay

Cassidy Thomson, Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (AUS)

Kodee Williams-Sefo, Harbour Basketball Association

Gia Vukona, Southern District Spartans (NBL1)


Non-Travelling Reserves

Emma Rogers, Tauranga Basketball Association

Ophelia Powell, Canterbury Basketball Association

Waikimihia Douglas-Karauna, Rotorua Basketball Association

Storey Sadler, Basketball Hawkes Bay


FIBA U17 Women’s World Cup 2024 – New Zealand Schedule

Italy vs NZL – 12pm NZT, Sunday 14 July

NZL vs Mexico – 2.30pm NZT, Monday 15 July

Mali vs NZL – 9.30am NZT, Wednesday 17 July

Round of 16 – Thursday 18 July (time TBC)

Quarter-finals / Classification Rounds Sat 21 July (time TBC)

Semi-finals / Classification Rounds – Sun 22 July (time TBC)

Finals / Classification Rounds – Mon 23 July (time TBC)