School buddies become international colleagues

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 14: Lisa Wallbutton of New Zealand (L) and Lauren Jackson of Australia in action during the Women's FIBA Oceania Championship match between the New Zealand Tall Ferns and the Australian Opals at North Shore Events Centre on August 14, 2013 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Sandra Mu/Getty Images)

Two of the senior players in the recent Tall Ferns team, both former North Harbour representative players, are currently living on opposite sides of a continent but have shared an immense amount of time together over the years.

Guard Micaela Cocks lives in North Queensland where she has enjoyed great success with the Townsville Fire in the Australian Women’s National Basketball League for the last four seasons. The Fire, coached by Tall Ferns assistant coach Chris Lucas, won the WNBL title for the first time earlier this year.

Tall_Ferns-1200Forward Lisa Wallbutton is based in Perth where she now plays for Willetton Tigers in the Western Australian State Basketball League. Prior to that she had played for four WNBL teams.

Both players made their debut for the Tall Ferns in 2005 and have now been constant companions on the international scene for a decade.

In their early days Cocks and Wallbutton were standout age group players winning multiple national titles with North Harbour under the guidance of current Tall Blacks assistant coach Aik Ho.

Both players are indebted to Ho and other coaches like Kurt Dammers for the many early mornings they were on hand at North Shore Events Centre, nurturing and encouraging their early basketball development.

Following school their playing careers took different paths.

Cocks headed off to the USA and enjoyed a standout four year stint at the University of Oregon. Wallbutton jumped straight into a professional career playing the 2007-8 season for the Christchurch Sirens before heading to Australia when the Sirens franchise collapsed after a single campaign.

Both flirted with European basketball – Wallbutton had a season in Belgium and Cocks brief stints in France and Poland.

The two, along with Natalie Taylor, are the only remaining members of the Tall Ferns team that attended the 2008 BeijingOlympics. A second Olympic appearance would be the icing on the cake for this pair of basketball buddies.

With the Tall Ferns being defeated by Australia in the Oceania series the pair have returned to their homes 5,000 kilometers apart. It remains to be seen if they will be reunited for the 2016 Olympic repechage tournament campaign.

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