Following a busy week helping their respective schools qualify for the Secondary Schools National Tournament later in the year the Junior Tall Ferns squad has gathered in Christchurch for a two game series against the China Under 19 team. The two games will be played on Wednesday and Thursday at Cowles Stadium.
Head coach Brent Matehaere admits that preparation for the series has not been ideal but is philosophical about the challenge ahead.
“Preparations are always difficult when the players are based all over New Zealand. The girls have been focused on qualifying their schools for Secondary Schools National Championships in the past week but have now turned their attention to the China series.
“The girls had individual skill sets to work on while away from the team environment and there are a number of really supportive coaches who give up there time to work with them. It’s the Kiwi way to just get on and do it, doing the best we can with what we have. I’m always impressed with the girls and the improvements that they make from one camp to the next. It really shows the commitment they have to the programme and ultimately to themselves and the opportunities that they are creating for themselves by taking their individual games to the next level.
“What we don’t have in preperation time we will have to replace with heart and desire,” said Matehaere
The games against China are a key component of the team’s preparation for the FIBA Oceania Championships, in Fiji, this December. The Championships will double as the Qualifying Tournament for the 2017 FIBA Under 19 World Championships.
Matehaere and his squad are not unfamiliar with the opposition style of play as they played nine games in China back in April.
“China are fierce competitors. They play aggressive defence with full court ball pressure and force teams to play a long way from the basket. They train relentlessly and play the same way,” he said.
The opportunity to play a home international series has created an air of anticipation in the JTF’s camp.
“The girls take a huge amount of pride in playing for New Zealand. It is an honour to stand, look up to our flag and sing the national anthem.
“Many of the girls have family travelling to the game and to have their support is invaluable. I was recently at a tournament in Dunedin where many of the teams were talking about getting along to the game especially the Wednesday encounter.
“It would be great to see Cowles Stadium packed with fans passionate about basketball supporting the Junior Tall Ferns and their own local players in Charlotte Whittaker (Rangiora High School) and Esra McGoldrick (Rangi Ruru Girls),” Matehaere said.
The New Zealand team has a good dose of international experience. Four of the players, Zara Jillings and the Waikato trio of Charlisse Leger-Walker, Alyssa Hirawani and Kendell Heremaia, were members of the New Zealand team that finished fifth at the FIBA Under 18 3×3 World Championships in Kazakhstan in June. In addition, Charlotte Whittaker and Tiarne Clarke both played for the New Zealand Select team against China B in Auckland over Queens Birthday weekend.
Junior Tall Ferns Squad:
- Tiarna Clarke (North Harbour)
- Aliyah Dunn (Southland)
- Kendell Heremaia (Waikato)
- Alyssa Hirawani (Waikato)
- Joellen How (Taranaki)
- Zara Jillings (North Harbour)
- Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato)
- Esra McGoldrick (Canterbury)
- Bayley Ransfield (Taranaki)
- Tera Reed (Life Centre Academy, New Jersey, USA)
- Stirling Walker-Pitman (Waikato)
- Charlotte Whittaker (North Canterbury)
Games – Junior Tall Ferns v China Under 19
- Game 1: Wednesday, 7 September, tip off 1.00pm
- Game 2: Thursday, 8 September, tip off 7.30pm
Both games will be played at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch.