Following last week's Under 19 Championships Junior Tall Ferns Head Coach Brent Matehaere has named a 14 player squad for a two-game home series against China Under 19s.
The series will be played in Christchurch in early September with Matehaere vowing that his team will play an attractive style of basketball.
"We are trying to create a brand of basketball that the girls enjoy and want to perform. They have to be locked into every possession, that's our focus in order to give ourselves a chance of success on the international stage."
The games against China are a key component of the team's preparation for the FIBA Oceania Championships, in Fiji this December. The Championships will double as the Qualifying Tournament for the 2017 FIBA Under 19 World Championships.
Before naming the team, Matehaere attended the New Zealand Under 19 Championships in Nelson last week to check in on a number of players. "We wanted to see if they have done the things we asked them to do between the tour of China back in April and now, to see if they are making those steps in the right direction.
"The selection process began in early 2015 and we (Matehaere and assistant coaches Bronwen Davidson and Trent Adam) have been observing players both in New Zealand and overseas since then.
"We've sat down together as coaches and assessed how we're going to beat Australia at the Oceania Championships - that's our goal. We believe that we can put together a group that can challenge the Australian way of playing and challenge their systems," said Matehaere.
The named team has a good dose of international experience. Four of the players, Zara Jillings and the Waikato trio of Charlisse Leger-Walker, Alyssa Hirawani and Kendell Heremaia, were members of the New Zealand team that finished fifth at the FIBA Under 18 3x3 World Championships in Kazakhstan in June. In addition, Charlotte Whittaker and Tiarne Clarke both played for the New Zealand Select team against China B in Auckland over Queens Birthday weekend. Matehaere is pleased that a number of his charges have been able to gain that experience.
"It helps that they have had that exposure to international basketball, international travel, dealing with tough places to live and tough playing environments. All those little things help with the preparation for the challenges ahead."
Having home internationals for New Zealand age-group teams is a rarity and the opportunities are not lost on Matehaere.
"It's a great opportunity for the 14 players that are available to perform in front of their whanau and display their talents, and showcase the international game here in New Zealand. I'm sure the Canterbury fans, who love their basketball, will come out in droves to see this team play," he added.
Canterbury Basketball CEO Paul Duggan is also confident the locals will support the games.
"We are delighted to be once again hosting international basketball in Christchurch. The support for the Tall Ferns series last year against Japan was excellent and we anticipate that the interest in the two-game series against China Under 19's will be equally strong."
Junior Tall Ferns Squad: Tiarna Clarke (North Harbour), Aliyah Dunn (Southland), Jayden Fuiava (Queensland South), Kendell Heremaia (Waikato), Alyssa Hirawani (Waikato), Joellen How (Taranaki), Zara Jillings (North Harbour), Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato), Esra McGoldrick (Canterbury), Bayley Ransfield (Taranaki), Tera Reed (Life Centre Academy, New Jersey, USA), Nicole Ruske (Otago), Stirling Walker-Pitman (Waikato), Charlotte Whittaker (North Canterbury).
McKenna Dale (Edwin O. Smith High School, Connecticut, USA) and Darci Finnigan (Waitakere West) are selected in the extended squad, but unavailable for the series v China U19. Coola Baudry and Katie Diakhaby were unavailable.