Basketball: Tough tournament awaits Tall Ferns

By Daniel Richardson

Tall Ferns coach Kennedy Kereama said Micaela Cocks (pictured) will have to perform for his team if they have any chance of beating the Czech Republic. Photo / Getty Images.
Tall Ferns coach Kennedy Kereama said Micaela Cocks (pictured) will have to perform for his team if they have any chance of beating the Czech Republic. Photo / Getty Images.

Five Olympic berths remain in the women's basketball competition for London and the Tall Ferns' bid to claim one gets underway at the last qualifying tournament in Turkey on Tuesday morning with a tough opponent in the form of the Czech Republic.

The Tall Ferns, who are ranked 18th in the world, spent time in China recently to build up for the Olympic qualifiers with games against China, Angola and Australia.

Those opponents will have battle-hardened the Tall Ferns, who also meet Argentina in pool play of the qualifying tournament the day after the game against the Czechs.

One win in pool play should be enough for New Zealand. The top two teams from each of the four pools qualify for the next round where a quarter-final win would guarantee the Ferns a spot in the Olympics. The four losing quarter-finalists play off for the final ticket to London.

The Czech Republic are the fourth-ranked side in the world and feature WNBA player Jana Vesela who is a forward for the Seattle Storm.

"They're clearly a powerhouse of women's basketball," Tall Ferns coach Kennedy Kereama said.

"They finished second at the last world championships [in 2010] their average height is about 188 centimetres, which is eight centimetres tall than our average height ... so they're a fairly big team."

Kereama said Micaela Cocks, Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe and Natalie Taylor would have to perform for his team and the side would need to commit fewer than 10 turnovers against the Czechs.

"I think for us we are going to have to play a fairly well-planned game ... We are not going to be able to play them straight up, we are going to have to extend our pressure up the floor and try and nullify their size in the paint."

The Tall Ferns are clearly targeting Argentina, who are ranked 12th in the world, as the team to beat to move through to the next round but keeping close to the Czechs will be vital because if they were to lose to them and the Argentines were able to knock over the Czechs it would come down to a three-way tie and points differential would decide who would go through to the quarter-finals.

The Tall Blacks, who are vying to claim one of the three remaining spots in the men's competition in London, begin their qualifying tournament in Venezuela early next month.

- APNZ

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