The FIBA Womens Olympic Qualifying Tournament tipped-off last night in Nantes France, and Coach Kennedy Kereama has declared the Tall Ferns are ready for their first game against the hosts at 8.30pm local time (Wednesday 6.30am New Zealand time).
The Tall Ferns face France in Group A and will then play Cuba the following day, needing to win one of these to advance to the quarter finals.
"We have had a great preparation and achieved some big wins against good international teams. Now we are ready to play France and Cuba, and whatever team comes our way after that." said Kereama.
"Im proud of how the staff and team have come together over the past four weeks, and now the excitement is building for the most important part of our campaign," he added.
Guard Micaela Cocks is one of three players in the New Zealand squad to have played at an Olympics, alongside Lisa Wallbutton and Jillian Harmon at the 2008 Games, and is delighted with the progress the team has made.
"We have put a lot of work in and I am excited about the challenge ahead to qualify for Rio. We believe we can get the job done," said Cocks.
Fellow guard and Townsville Fire teammate Chevannah Paalvast is equally confident. "We are gelling well and it couldnt come at a better time. Its a really exciting time for us all right now," she said.
France, runners-up at Eurobasket 2015, are ranked fourth in the world with nine of their players competing in the highly competitive French League. Already the French players will be well known to Tall Ferns guard Erin Rooney, who has played in the League for the past two seasons, the most recent with COB Calais. The Tall Ferns will also have the advantage of being able to watch France play Cuba a full 24 hours before they play the hosts. A day after the Tall Ferns play France, they will take on the more-favoured Cuba, who are the 2015 FIBA Americas runners-up and ranked 13 in the world, well ahead of New Zealand at 22.
The four teams that win the quarter-final ties advance directly to the Olympics. The four remaining teams will compete for fifth and the last remaining spot at Rio.
Tall Ferns Squad:
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
Tall Ferns Games in Group A:
- 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 have assembled 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.
- Games can be seen on FIBA Live Basketball TV - 8.99 for all games from every FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament this year -
- Live Press Conference - the press conference following the France V Tall Ferns game will be streamed here:
More information on the FIBA Womens Qualifying Tournament: