The Tall Ferns Womens Basketball squad has been trimmed to 12 ahead of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament beginning in France in just seven days time.
Head Coach Kennedy Kereama had the difficult task of omitting two players from his party of 14 following the Four Nations Tournament in Belarus last week.
The two players to miss out are Waikato teenager Krystal Leger-Walker and Melbourne based Jessica Bygate. Formerly from Nelson, Bygate currently plays for Sunbury Jets in the Big V League.
Kereama says, "It was a tough decision as both players bring so much and the coaching staff spent a long time agonising over the decision.
However it is important to remember that if we qualify for Rio all 16 original squad members will get a chance to come back and re-trial.
"I am confident both will go home and work hard and be ready for a call up at any time. Injuries happen, sickness happens, we are hoping we dont have to replace anyone under those circumstances but it is a reality."
The Tall Ferns are now based in Asturias in northern Spain where they will take on the hosts in the final two hit outs for both teams before the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The challenge doesnt get any easier for the Kiwis with Spain, a team Kereama admires greatly, only headed by USA and Australia on the world rankings. The games will be played this week on Wednesday and Thursday at 7pm local time (5am NZ time Thursday and Friday mornings).
Kereama is looking forward to the challenges ahead, "We are really happy with the 12 players we have selected. All positions across the board we have depth in and all players can contribute and have experience in the black singlet.
"We have surrounded our vets with players who can fulfill roles and support them when needed. This will be the deepest our bench has been for sometime and in most of the build up games we have had we have lost nothing when we have had to rotate."
The 12 players selected are:
Stella Beck, aged 20 from Hutt Valley playing at Saint Mary's College, California
Micaela Cocks, 30, North Harbour -Townsville Fire
Penina Davidson, 20, Waitakere - University of California, Berkley
Antonia Edmondson, 28, Canterbury - Perth Lynx
Deena Franklin, 21, North Harbour - Waitakere Lady Rangers
Jillian Harmon, 29, Le Murra Lucca, Italy
Jordan Hunter, 25, Counties Manukau - Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks
Chevannah Paalvast, 24, Waitakere - Townsville Fire
Kalani Purcell, 21, Counties Manukau - Brigham Young University-Provo
Erin Rooney, 25, Canterbury - Cote D'Opale Basket Calais, France
Josephine Stockill, 22, Hawkes Bay - Colgate University
Lisa Wallbutton, 30, North Harbour - Perth Redbacks
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.
Weds June 8 - Gijon, Spain, Friendly v Spain. 7.00pm local time (5am Thursday NZ time).
Thurs June 9 - Oviedo, Spain, Friendly v Spain. 7.00pm local time (5am Friday NZ time).
13-19 June - Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Nantes, France
Tuesday June 14, v France. 8.30pm local time (6.30am Wednesday NZ time)
Wednesday June 15 v Cuba. 3.00pm local time (1.00am Thursday NZ time)
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, but Kereama is backing his team to mix it with the best in France.
More information on the FIBA Womens Qualifying Tournament: