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Tall Ferns Select squad named for Japan

Tall Ferns Select squad basketball

Basketball New Zealand (BBNZ) has named an intriguing Tall Ferns Select Teamto face Japan in Tokyo from July 4-6.

The squad is a mixture of experienced national team athletes, alongside several newcomers who are currently embedded as student-athletes in the US college system.

Six players – Amiee Book, Ella Bradley, Waiata Jennings, Eva Langton, Tara Manumaleuga and Lilly Parke – will be in line to wear the black jersey for the first time, under the guidance of four returning FIBA Women’s Asia Cup athletes in Grace Hunter, Esra McGoldrick, Tera Reed and Tahlia Tupaea.

McGoldrick and Reed also joined Whittaker earlier this year at the FIBA Olympic Qualifier tournament in China.

With an average age of 22.4 years - Whittaker the youngest at 18 and Tupaea the most senior member at 26 - BBNZ high performance programme manager Lisa Wallbutton said the tour would serve as a key player development opportunity for the Tall Ferns.

“This team was based on a mixture of availability of our current athletes – given that some are playing in NBL1 – where they sit on our depth chart and the opportunity to evaluate players who haven’t been on the squad before,” said Wallbutton.

“This squad has a nice balance and mix of the ‘old and the new’; we have several base Tall Ferns in place with the chance for these US College players to come in and gain experience in this environment and exposure to international basketball.

"It’s also an opportunity for Tall Ferns coaching coach to evaluate these athletes: Can they can play a role in our World Cup Pre-Qualifiers in Mexico (August 15-25)? Due to retirements and injury, we have roster spots which these young players will be in line to fill.”

Tall Ferns basketball
The Tall Ferns Select squad of 12. PHOTO: BBNZ

Wallbutton said that alongside the development tour, the Tall Ferns Select team to face world No 9 Japan will be a competitive team thanks to its veteran leadership.

“This is a great chance for Tahlia, Esra and Tera to provide mentoring and leadership to this new batch of Tall Ferns; those relationships within our team will play a key part in our success going forward.”

The Japan friendly tour will serve as the first hit-out for Natalie Hurst, who was announced on Wednesday as the Tall Ferns interim head coach. Hurst says she is looking forward to working with his young and talented team in Japan.

“It’s a young team but that’s what’s really exciting for BBNZ – that there’s this young talent coming through and the fact we can send this group to play against Japan in two friendly games, it’s almost a free hit – getting this type of international experience is a great opportunity for any New Zealand team,” says Hurst.

“It’s not going to be an easy two games for us by any means; Japan wanted a competitive outfit to play against and that’s exactly what we want to deliver. The expectation isn’t primarily to go over there and win these games – that’s not what friendly games are typically about – it’s more a chance for these young athletes to be part of our national team environment and to show us what they can do on the big stage.”

Lauren Whittaker, who begins as a freshman at Gonzaga University in the US in August, said the chance to return as a Tall Fern is a dream come true.

“Obviously I’m very honoured to be selected again and it’s always such a good opportunity; to be part of this new wave coming in, it’s a good opportunity for me and those other girls to showcase our talent and learn from the older players,” said Whittaker.

“Just gaining this kind of experience overseas, especially against a team like Japan who are very skilled and experienced – it’ll be good for young players like myself. And it also helps us get a foot in the door of the Tall Ferns programme.

“I’ve wanted to play Tall Ferns since I first started playing basketball, and seeing my older sister [Charlotte] going up through the age group pathways was awesome to see. It’s always been an aspiration for me; watching players like Penina, Charlisse and Kalani up on the world stage, and seeing that women can do anything – it’s very inspirational.”



Amiee Book, Unattached

Ella Bradley, University of Texas at Tyler (NCAA Div II)

Grace Hunter, California State Bakersfield Roadrunners (NCAA Div I)

Waiata Jennings, Collin College Cougars (NJCAA)

Eva Langton, Norwood Flames (NBL1)

Tara Manumaleuga, Texas Christian University (NZCCA Div I)

Esra McGoldrick, Casey Cavaliers (NBL1)

Lilly Parke, Fairleigh Dickinson University (NCAA Div I)

Tera Reed, Keilor Thunder (NBL1)

Lilly Taulelei, University of Massachusetts (NCAA Div I)

Tahlia Tupaea, Penrith Panthers (NBL1)

Lauren Whittaker, Gonzaga University Bulldogs (NCAA Div I)


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