Basketball: Tall Fern Purcell in rare form at BYU

By Mike Lacey

Tall Ferns player Kalani Purcell. Photo / Alan Gibson
Tall Ferns player Kalani Purcell. Photo / Alan Gibson

A number of New Zealand's international basketball players have impressed recently with their performances overseas but none more so than Tall Fern Kalani Purcell.

Last week Purcell recorded her eighth double-double of the season to help Brigham Young University - Provo Cougars defeat Portland 78-66 in the West Coast Conference.

Purcell scored 11 points and also pulled down 14 rebounds in addition to eight assists and six steals, a performance that earned her the Conference Player of the Week Award for the second consecutive week.

The performance drew praise from BYU coach Jeff Judkins, "Kalani had a great week, I think what she did proves what kind of player she is for this team and in this league. She is a tough matchup for anybody."

Coach Judkins is also encouraging Kalani to take more shots as she currently puts up just nine per game. Purcell admits, "It is not my usual game but it is a goal to increase my numbers."

Purcell didn't rest on her laurels following the player of the week recognition. On Saturday she threatened a triple double as BYU prevailed 69-64 over Pepperdine. The former Waikato rep corralled a mammoth 24 rebounds, complimented by 16 points and 8 assists, a performance that will put her in line for another POTW award.

The Cougars have won eleven of their last twelve games and for Purcell the key has been, "not to force things as a team, everyone just plays their role."

Purcell's form has been outstanding all season and she currently leads her Conference in rebounding (12.7pg) and assists (4.5pg) in addition to contributing 11.4 points per game.

The 21-year-old's rebounding prowess stems from younger days, "I used to always be the biggest player but now at college this is not the case so I take it as a personal challenge to beat them all."

Purcell made her international debut in 2013 and comes from a family that has produced two other Tall Ferns in recent years, older sisters Charmian Mellars and Natalie Taylor. Purcell played alongside Taylor during the 2015 international season and was one of the standout players in the FIBA Oceania Series loss to Australia in August.

A certainty to be picked for the 2016 Tall Ferns team to compete in June at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France Purcell has more pressing business to attend to in the next few weeks. BYU have never won a regular season Conference championship but with the team boasting an 8-1 West Coast Conference record, and Purcell in dominating form, 2016 might be the year.

- NZ Herald

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