Basketball New Zealand has announced the formation of two New Zealand Select teams, with the aim of developing a wider pool of elite New Zealand players that will back up the Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns.
This development strategy comes with the announcement the New Zealand Select Women's team, which will debut with a two-test series against China B in Auckland on 4 and 6 June.
The Women's New Zealand Select team is:
Soraya Umanga-Jensen, Oceania Gold Rush Otago; Fran Edmondson, Canterbury Wildcats; Mary Goulding, Canterbury Wildcats; Shea Crotty, Canterbury Wildcats; Ashley Gayle, Canterbury Wildcats; Jodi Hikuroa-Jeffrey, Nelson Sparks; Brooke Blair, Idaho State University; Katelin Noyer, Waitakere Lady Rangers; Janet Main, Oceania Gold Rush Otago; Shalae Salmon, Capital Flyers. Head Coach - Jody Cameron. Assistant Coach - Lori McDaniel. Team Manager - Justine Reed.
Chief Executive of Basketball New Zealand, Iain Potter, says FIBA's decision to include Oceania in the Asia Zone will result in the number of annual Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns games increasing considerably, so the teams will need to gather regularly throughout the year. He says the establishment of the New Zealand Select sides, for both men and women, is a strategic move to develop a greater depth of players.
"When we enter the FIBA Asia Zone and the new World Cup qualifying process next year, we will need to bring the Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns into camp regularly. For example, we know the Tall Blacks will be assembled at least nine times over a two year period from 2017 to 2019, so there will be a need to draw upon a wider group of players than we have historically, particularly with a number of players that will be unavailable at times due to contractual obligations with U.S. Colleges or professional clubs.
"There's a need for the wider group of players to experience elite basketball at an international level. It's also important to consider how we bring players into the Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns environments, which are based upon a very proud culture. The legacy and mana behind the black shirt is cherished by those who experience being a part of those teams, so the Select teams will give players an insight into that high performance culture. Overall the experience will be invaluable as players are readied and vie for Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns caps," says Potter.
The men's New Zealand Select team will be named in early July, and they will travel to China in mid-July. Potter says both the women's and men's fixtures against China are the result of having a good relationship with China Basketball.
"We have established a good partnership with China. Basketball is China's number one game, it's the most watched game on Chinese national television and the national teams attract more viewers than the NBA over there. We also know the Tall Blacks and New Zealand brand is already recognised there, we've already had exposure through previous events, such as our victory in last year's Stankovic Cup. They like our style of play and see the value in playing us. So there are a number of reasons why they like playing New Zealand and why these games will be rewarding for us."
The New Zealand Select teams are also backed by an increasing number of players developing through the grassroots game and Potter says that he sees our National Teams only going from strength to strength.
"Our junior programmes are showing value with young players stepping up to senior levels. These are fed by strong regional teams, which are supported by the growth of secondary school players - an increase of 18% of participants in the last three years. So our development pool is getting bigger and that's going to continue to bolster into our National teams.
"2017 is going to be a busy and very exciting time for our elite game. We'll see a lot more of our stars playing here at home, as well as following them abroad. But the first thing is to ensure that we are prepared to step up to these new international demands. The development of the Select teams is one strategy to succeed in the new environment."