Basketball: Battle of sexes spurs City into action

By Kelly Exelby

Fear of falling to the fairer sex is providing ample motivation for the Tauranga City men's team heading into Thursday night's showdown with one of the United States' leading college women's sides.

Tauranga City will take on Arizona State University at Baypark's TECT Arena in a rare clash of the sexes - something coach Leyton Haddleton said has been the topic of plenty of chat heading into the game.

Fresh from victory at the weekend's national open premiership qualifying tournament in Tauranga, Haddleton had rejigged his side into an under-23 squad.

Five players - Alex Schipper, Ashton McQueen, Samuel Smith, Ethan Smith and Theo Johnson - are backing up from last weekend.

"The concept of playing a women's team has been a bit of a talking point," Haddleton said, "and when I initially talked to them about being part of the team they were all a bit apprehensive, mainly because the thought of possibly getting beaten by a team of women is slightly daunting. No young dude wants that on their record."

Arizona State are one of the glamour teams in the US collegiate system. They arrive today and have games against Tauranga City, the New Zealand Breakers development and New Zealand men's invitational team on their six-day tour, their first since a pre-season tour of Italy five years ago.

They will be involved in a coaching clinic at TECT Arena from 1-3pm on Thursday and will be playing rejigged rules, using a size 7 men's ball instead of size 6 and a 24s instead of 35s shot clock.

Arizona State have made it into the post-season playoffs for 13 straight years, finishing among the top eight teams in the US twice since 2007 and winning the Pac-12 conference title twice since 1999.

Head coach Charli Turner Thorne will be entering her 16th season at ASU after stepping out of the programme for a year in 2011/12. She said the trip Downunder was an important part of building a foundation going into the upcoming season, with the team not officially practicing again until October, a month before the new season starts.

The connection with New Zealand is through the team's life coach, Carlette Patterson, who works with the New Zealand Academy of Sport and has been instrumental in introducing the ASU women's basketball programme's Character Code Game to kids in New Zealand.

Turner Thorne is a graduate of Stanford who coached the US women's team to gold at the World University Games in 2009 in Serbia and the under-21 world title in Russia in 2007.

The trip to New Zealand couldn't have been better timed, she said.

"We'll be entering the 2012-13 season with two new coaches and seven new players, so to be able to bring our team together for this opportunity is amazing.

"In addition to basketball, we are going to do some pretty challenging team activities that are going to force us to grow as a team and hopefully push us to that elite mentality that we want to get back to."

For Haddleton, getting somewhere near the performance of last weekend's unbeaten run through the premiership qualifying tournament will be enough.

"My boys were pitbulls the whole weekend, going in for the kill, sticking with the game plan and doing what we needed to get the right result.

"Thursday will be different again, with only five boys back but it's a great opportunity against a touring team that doesn't come around often."

Thursday night's teams, TECT Arena, 7pm

Tauranga City men: Alex Schipper, Ashton McQueen, Ethan Smith, Samuel Smith, Theo Johnson, Jack Stewart, Caelen Woods, Dylan Woods, Matt Fullerton, Mitchell Francis, Callum Shepherd. Coach: Leyton Haddleton.

Arizona State University women:

Promise Amukamara, Nisha Barrett, Jada Blackwell, Joy Burke, Elisha Davis, Janae Fulcher, Arnecia Hawkins, Katie Hempen, Deja Mann, Eliza Normen, Micaela Pickens, Isidora Purkovic, Adrianne Thomas, Haley Videckis. Head coach: Charli Turner Thorne. Associate head coaches: Amanda Levens, Meg Sanders. Assistant coach: Jackie Moore.ROAD TRIP: Arizona State University women's basketball head coach Charli Turner Thorne.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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