Top class basketball returns to ASB Arena when the opening round of the 2016 Women's Basketball Championship (WBC) tips off today.
The three-day tournament begins at 9.30am with the final games at 7.30pm today and tomorrow and at 3pm Sunday.
The WBC is the highest level of domestic competition for women and replaced the Women's Basketball League (WBL) in 2009. It is played over three tournaments, with round two in Nelson next month and the final playoff series in Porirua in May.
Teams competing are Auckland, Counties Manukau Lady Hawks, Taranaki Thunder, Capital Flyers, Canterbury Wildcats, Oceana Gold Rush Otago, Nelson Sparks, Tauranga City Coasters, Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix, Waikato Wizards, Waitakere Lady Rangers and the Junior Tall Ferns (tournaments one and three only).
Tauranga Basketball Association general manager Mark Rogers said the Tauranga City Coasters side had a broad range of ability and age.
"We see this as part of us providing a pathway for players right through up to the highest level they can play. Being honest it will be challenging for our team. We aren't as stacked as some of the other teams are because you can recruit players from elsewhere. We don't do that. We only use our own players," Rogers said.
The Junior Tall Ferns will add interest and skill factor to the three days of basketball on show, with the Tauranga City Coasters up against the young guns at 11.30am today.
"That is to give the [Junior Tall Ferns] some experience before they go to China in April and they then have qualifying events later in the year in Australia," Rogers said.
"For us it will be a great experience in terms of gauging where they're at in terms of their development compared to the Junior Tall Ferns. Some of our players are a bit younger so it will be a big challenge for them.
"Our youngest player is 14-year-old Briarley Rogers. She has had another national camp and the feedback from that has been very positive. We are hopeful she will make a New Zealand team to go and play the state champs in July and then make the New Zealand team to go to the world qualifiers in Asia next year. So very exciting for her and for Tauranga City Basketball."