As the Tall Ferns prepare for a pair of games against Latvia this weekend head coach Kennedy Kereama has had a few days to reflect on the efforts of his charges in China.
The team won two of its six games losing twice to the hosts and splitting the two games against the Czech Republic and Montenegro. Despite mixed results Kereama took heart from the observations of the opposition coaches.
"We got better every game and the European coaches were complimentary of how much fight we have, how hard we play and how talented a team we have.
"For me those comments are worth a great deal to us as the Europeans, in my opinion, are world leaders in our sport and they recognize the trademarks of our programme.
"We have started to build a very solid base at both ends of the floor. Offensively we are starting to kick into gear with a well balanced scoring attack from fast break, to post play, penetration and perimeter play."
More good news for the coach is that his squad has been bolstered by the arrival of Josie Stockill and the vastly experienced Jillian Harmon. Both players will add to the permutations the coaching staff will use amongst the forwards.
Harmon arrived in Riga, the capital of Latvia, having recently completed a highly successful season in Italy. The 29 year old averaged 18.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game as her club side Le Mura Lucca won the Italian League regular season title. Harmons seven seasons of professional experience will add significantly to Kereamas forward options.
Stockill will also add to those choices, the 1.86m forward has recently graduated from Colgate University, New York, after a standout college career.
The Hawkes Bay native ended her four years as Colgates all time leading shot blocker (241 blocks) and also holds the record for the most blocks in a single season -105 achieved in the recent season. In addition she finished 5th all time in rebounding (630 rebounds) and 15th all time in scoring (1,081 points).
Stockill also had the honour of being named in the 2016 Patriot League Academic All-League team.
Kereama has also been pleased with the defensive effort of the team.
"We held the Czechs to six points in a quarter which is unheard of really. When we lock into our rules we can be very damaging to opposition teams.
"However we still have a few things to add and as always we are never satisfied with where we are at so will continue to build and improve."
The only downside from China was having to release two players as Kereama has opted for experience as the team builds towards the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France next month.
The two young players that made their international debuts in China, Brooke Blair and Katelin Noyer, have been released from the squad. Both will feature in the New Zealand Select team to play China B in Auckland over Queens Birthday Weekend.
"It was tough having to make selections and leave both Katelin and Brooke behind as we move on to the next part of our journey, said Kereama.
"They have both been great and its always tough to leave someone out when they havent put a foot wrong," he added.
But now the focus shifts to the two games against Latvia.
Game 1 v Latvia - Friday May 27, tip-off 5pm local time (2.00am Saturday NZ time)
Game 2 v Latvia - Saturday May 28, tip-off 5pm local time (2.00am Sunday NZ time)
These are the 14 players currently in the Tall Ferns squad (two to be omitted before the Olympic Qualifying Tournament).
- Micaela Cocks, aged 30, from North Harbour, plays for Townsville Fire
- Antonia Edmondson, 28, Canterbury - Perth Lynx
- Kalani Purcell, 21, Counties Manukau - Brigham Young University-Provo
- Erin Rooney, 25, Canterbury - Cote D'Opale Basket Calais, France
- Lisa Wallbutton, 30, North Harbour - Perth Redbacks
- Jessica Bygate, 24, Nelson - Adelaide Lightning/Sunbury Jets
- Chevannah Paalvast, 24, Waitakere - Townsville Fire
- Jordan Hunter, 25, Counties Manukau - ACM Lady Hawks
- Deena Franklin, 21, North Harbour - Waitakere Lady Rangers
- Krystal Leger-Walker, 18, Waikato - Waikato Wizards
- Josie Stockill, 22, Hawkes Bay - Colgate University, Hamilton, NY
- Jillian Harmon, 29, New York - Le Mura Lucca, Italy
- Stella Beck, 20, Hutt Valley - Saint Mary's College, California
- Penina Davidson, 20, Waitakere, University of California, Berkley
The Full Tall Ferns 2016 Tour Schedule is:
- 14-16 May - Four Nations Tournament v China, Czech Republic and Montenegro in Hengyang, Hunan Province, China.
- 19-21 May - Four Nations Tournament v China, Czech Republic and Montenegro in Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia, China.
- 23-28 May - Latvia Friendlies, Riga, Latvia
- 29 May - 4 June - Four Nations Tournament v Belarus, Japan and Turkey in Minsk, Belarus.
- 5-9 June - Spain Friendlies in Asturias, Spain.
- 13-19 June - Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Nantes, France
Olympic Qualifying Tournament
The Tall Ferns will assemble alongside 12 other nations at the womens qualifying tournament in Nantes, France: Spain, France, Belarus, Turkey (Europe); Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela (Americas); Cameroon, Nigeria (Africa), China, South Korea (Asia); and New Zealand (Oceania). Only the top five will earn a place in Rio.
New Zealand has been drawn with heavyweights France (4 in the world) and Cuba (13) in their pool, with the top two teams from each pool of three qualifying for the quarterfinals. New Zealands
of 22 in the world has them clearly ranked as underdogs.
More information on the FIBA Womens Qualifying Tournament: