Baptism of fire for eight new Tall Ferns players

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 14/08/2014

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Tall Ferns coach Kennedy Kereama hopes his side's youthful exuberance and passion can make up for their lack of experience.

With close to 15 frontline players unavailable for this month's four-nation tournament in China, New Zealand's raw squad will face a baptism of fire.

Eight of the 12 players have yet to play for the Tall Ferns, with only Canterbury's Toni Edmondson, Samara Gallaher, Kate Fielding and Jessica Bygate previously wearing the black singlet.

New Zealand will play six games against an American All Star team, China and a Slovenian side. Kereama said it was the perfect opportunity for the locally-based players to prove themselves against quality opposition and to gain exposure to international basketball. "It's a chance to broaden the talent pool here in New Zealand," he said.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games is the Tall Ferns only confirmed next major event, with the 2016 Olympics subject to qualification. If players were able to impress on the Chinese tour, it would enhance their prospects for future teams, Kereama said.

Waikato's Jess Tuki, who is better known on the netball court, is an interesting addition. Tuki, who played three tests for the Silver Ferns, earned her place after a standout showing at the recent women's basketball championship finals tournament in Porirua.

Kereama said the 1.85m Tuki was an excellent athlete, who could rebound, block shots and score inside.

New Zealand will find the going tough height-wise in China.

Kereama believed it would all start on the defensive end for the Tall Ferns. He said they would use their quickness and athleticism to their advantage.

"We'll try and get cheap baskets whenever we can in transition.

"Offensively, we like to run things in the half [court]. With the offensive style we have in place, we'll force mismatches."

Canterbury's Erin Rooney, who has just finished a stellar collegiate career at New York's Fordham University, was unavailable.

Rooney has signed with French pro club Arras and needed to be with her new team by August 20.

Fellow Cantabrian Hayley Gray has been named as a reserve, along with North Harbour's Brooke Blair.

The Tall Ferns leave next Tuesday.

Tall Ferns squad: Jessica Bygate (Dickinson State University/US), Shea Crotty (Canterbury), Toni Edmondson (West Coast Waves/AUS), Kate Fielding (West Coast Waves/AUS), Deena Franklin (North Harbour), Samara Gallaher (Otago), Krystal Leger-Walker (Waikato), Natasha Lenden (Waikato), Josephine Stockill (Colgate University/US), Dru Toleafoa (Junior Tall Ferns), Jess Tuki (Waikato), Maia Wilson (Waitakere).

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- The Press

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