The Junior Tall Blacks have recruited a "big bruiser from Victoria" in their bid for a historic series win against Australia in Porirua this week.
New Zealand's men and women's under-19 teams square off against their Aussie counterparts in best-of-three series, tipping off tonight, with the winners booking their tickets to the world championships.
The JTBs have never won a trans-Tasman series and have already suffered a major setback with new Tall Blacks star Tai Webster withdrawing to concentrate on his studies at Westlake Boys' High.
JTB coach Deslea Wrathall has looked across the Tasman to fill the breach, with Australia-based forward Andrew Kennerley and guard Will Soonalole included in her squad.
“Andrew's a big bruiser from Victoria who should really complement the team,” Wrathall said.
“Will is a point guard, so we've got a nice mix of physical players, smart players and real athletes."
Australia's squad contain several players from the side who finished runners-up at this year's under-17 world champs, including exciting guard Dante Exum.
"They can flat out play," Wrathall said. "[But] I've said to the team, I think we've got the personnel that can have a crack at them. It's probably one of the first times I've felt that way."
St Pat's Town forward Tom Vodanovich - who starred in the high jump at the McEvedy Shield this year - and guard Zach Young, are the two Wellington players in the squad.
The Junior Tall Ferns, including Hutt Valley's Stella Beck, are expected to have a similarly tough task against an Australia team who include six WNBL players.
- © Fairfax NZ News