Members from the Tall Ferns squad have converged on South Auckland as they begin their preparations for their first-ever Asia Cup appearance. The FIBA Asia Cup is also a qualifying tournament for the Womens FIBA World Cup and offers the Tall Ferns their best-ever chance of qualifying through the new FIBA Asia Zone.

Of the 15 players heading into camp, the majority are based abroad, either playing in NCAA tournaments on U.S. Scholarships, or playing in professional leagues in Australia, Italy or Poland. Yet one player is not only still based in New Zealand, but is also yet to finish secondary school - 15 year old Charlisse Leger-Walker.

Leger-Walker is the daughter of Tall Fern legend Leanne Walker, and the sister of Tall Fern Krystal, who is also playing US scholarship basketball of the University of Northern Colarado.

Young Charlisse is already riding high after being part of the Waikato U19 team that won the Under 19 National Championships last night, one of many national champs to her name.

Charlisse is already well-known to the basketball community. She won the junior female basketball player of 2016 at this years Basketball New Zealand Awards; has represented Waikato in numerous representative teams, including the Waikato Wizards in the Womens Basketball Championships. Charlisse has also helped her St Peters Cambridge school senior team win back to back New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships. She has represented New Zealand across a number of age ground teams too. And now she is vying for the title of youngest-ever Tall Fern, a team that Charlisse says she has dreamt about being part of for as long as she can remember.

"I'm really excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the programme at such a young age. My sister had her first trial when she was 16, so I think it's really cool to be following in her footsteps! My mum also captained the Tall Ferns and went to two Olympics, so I have gained a little bit of knowledge and insight from both of them, which makes going into the camp a little less daunting."

Charlisse says her goals for camp are to learn what she can from some of the teams more experienced players who have played US college ball, and have gone on to professional leagues and multiple Tall Ferns campaigns.

"I know that these girls are really top level basketballers, and most play overseas, so I think just playing alongside them would help me further my own skills. However, I do know that this is a trial and I will be playing as hard as I can to give myself the best opportunity to be a part of the team and the programme.

"My main focus is to learn as much as I can from all the coaching staff and also from the players themselves. One player that I look up to is Kalani Purcell. I'm aware of how well she is doing overseas and the level of basketball she is playing. She may not remember, but I did train with her once when she played for Waikato women's in WBC. Also Jillian Harmon, I remember watching and playing against her in the WBC when she played for Otago when I was 12," says Charlisse.

Of course basketball is in the family bloodline and Charlisse is not short of help when in need of advice, including from sister Krystal.

"I look up to my sister too, she works hard and encourages me. We have had some good basketball battles in the past and I enjoy training with her when she is home. Mum even gets our little sister Tannika to have a run and work out with us."

With so much basketball throughout the year, its easy to forget that this young talent is only 15 and she still has to find time for study as she approaches some testing years as big exams loom in the next few years.

"I try to balance school and basketball as best I can. As much as I want to train and be the best basketballer I can be, I know how important the academic side of things are, especially because I am looking to go over on a scholarship to the States when I finish high school. While I'm in camp I'll be in contact with my teachers trying to keep up with as much schoolwork as I can. The teachers and staff at St. Peter's are very supportive and helpful."

One teacher who is especially supportive is Charlisses Mum, Leanne Walker, who is also the schools head basketball coach. Naturally Mrs Walker is especially proud of her daughters and says her advice for Charlisse is reasonably straight forward ahead of the Tall Ferns camp.

"My advice to Charlisse is to go out there and learn as much as she can from the coaching staff and experienced players. To enjoy it, because that's why we play the game, and to make the most of the opportunity. I would tell her to play without fear, accept that mistakes will probably be made, but adjust and move on."

Mrs Walker says she is full of proud for having two daughters in the Tall Ferns mix.

"Both entering the Tall Ferns culture at such a young age makes me very proud, it's great knowing that all of the work they put in, the support afforded to them by their family, coaches and friends, has realised for them many opportunities, both within the sport and outside of the sport too. Basketball is enabling them to study, travel make some lifelong connections and some awesome memories with like-minded people.

"It's great that they have each other too, because they can share each other's ups and downstheir younger sister also keeps them grounded! Hopefully their experiences help them to become strong, independent, humble, grateful young women."


Georgia Agnew

North Harbour Breeze (WBC, NZ).

Position: Guard.

Born: October 30, 1993.

Having spent four years at Utah Valley University, Agnew is currently playing for Harbour Breeze in the Womens Basketball Championship (WBC). She currently sits fourth in the points scoring category in the WBC averaging 16.8 points per game.

Agnew was a member of the New Zealand team that competed at the FIBA 3x3 World Championships in China last year.

Tall Ferns career: Uncapped.

Jessica Bygate

Melbourne Boomers (WNBL, Australia), Sandringham Sabres (SEABL, Australia).

Position: Forward.

Born: January 10, 1992.

Played in the Australian WNBL for Adelaide Lightning in the 2015-16 season and Melbourne Boomers in 2016-17.

Is currently playing in the WNBL off-season with Sandringham Sabres in the South East Australian League (SEABL).

Graduated from Dickinson State University in 2014.

Debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2013.

Tea Charlton

Nottingham Wildcats/ Nottingham Trent University, (England).

Position: Forward/Centre.

Born: July 27, 1996.

Charlton joins the squad for the first time having recently played for UK National League Runners-up Nottingham Wildcats.

She has also had playing experience in Australia and Cyprus.

Tall Ferns career: Uncapped.

Micaela Cocks

Townsville Fire (WNBL, Australia), Mackay Meteorettes (QBL, Australia).

Position - Combo guard.

Born: May 2, 1986.

Cocks won a silver medal with the national team at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games and took up a four year scholarship at University of Oregon later that same year.

Cocks played for the Ferns at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Won the 2015 Grand Final MVP Award after helping the Townsville Fire win back to back Australian WNBL titles. She will begin her seventh season with Townsville in October.

Debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2005.

Antonia Farnworth (nee Edmondson)

Perth Lynx (WNBL, Australia), Perry Lakes Hawks (SBL, Australia).

Position - small forward.

Born: May 10, 1987.

Farnworth recently re-signed with Perth Lynx (sister team of the Perth Wildcats) for a sixth season beginning in October.

Plays for Perry Lakes Hawks in the Western Australian State League during the WNBL off-season.

Toni married husband Josh Farnworth in April 2017.

Debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2007.

Deena Franklin

Harbour Breeze (WBC, NZ).

Position - Forward.

Born: February 5, 1995.

Studying for her Masters in Biotechnology at Auckland University Franklin is the only player in the squad, other than Leger-Walker, not to have taken the US college or Australian Leagues route to further her basketball career.

Franklin plays for Harbour Breeze in the New Zealand WBC and this season averages 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

Debuted for Tall Ferns in 2014.

Jilian Harmon

Le Mura Lucca (Italy).

Position - Forward.

Born: March 3, 1987.

Harmon played four years at Stanford University and has played in the Italian League since graduating 2009. Was a key player for Le Mura Lucca in its 2016-17 Italian Championship winning season (averaging 17.2ppg and 6.7rpg).

Spent one season in the WNBL playing for Townsville Fire - 2014/15.

Debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2008 and appeared at the Beijing Olympics in the same year.

Charlisse Leger-Walker

Waikato Wizards (WBC, NZ) St Peters School, Cambridge.

Position: Combo Guard.

Born: September 15, 2001.

Still only 15 years old Leger-Walker has already played for a number of NZ age group teams. Has won back to back Secondary Schools National Championships with St Peters School.

Currently plays for the Waikato Wizards in the WBC where she leads the statistical categories for points (20.3pg), rebounds (9.8) and steals (4.8). She was also awarded the Lance McLoughlin Trophy for 2016 (Female Junior Player of the Year Award) at the Basketball New Zealand Awards this year.

Mother Leanne attended the 1990 and 1994 Olympics with the Tall Ferns and sister Krystal played for the Tall Ferns in 2014 and 2016.

Tall Ferns career: Uncapped.

Kayla Manuirirangi

Tulane University (USA).

Position: Guard.

Born: September 19, 1997

Recently completed her freshman year at Tulane University. Was MVP at the 2014 Secondary Schools National Championships where she led New Plymouth Girls High to the title.

Has played for a number of NZ age group teams.

Tall Ferns career: Uncapped.

Katelin Noyer

Fresno State University (USA).

Position: Guard.

Born: September 10, 1997.

Formerly at Westlake Girls High School Noyer has recently completed her freshman year at Fresno State University.

Brother Karl has played for the New Zealand 3x3 national team.

Debuted for Tall Ferns in 2016.

Chevannah Paalvast

Townsville Fire (WNBL, Australia), Mackay Meteorettes (QBL, Australia).

Position: Guard.

Born September 4, 1991.

Paalvast spent 5 years at Monmouth University, New Jersey and graduated in 2014. Became just the 17th player to score over 1,000 points for Monmouth.

Paalvast joined Micaela Cocks at Townsville Fire for the 2015-16 season helping them win a WNBL championship. Also played for the Fire in the 2016-17 season.

Like Cocks she is playing in the WNBL off-season for Mackay Meteorettes in the Queensland State League.

Debuted for Tall Ferns in 2015.

Kalani Purcell

Brigham Young University - Provo (USA).

Position Forward.

Born January 13, 1995.

Purcell comes from a family that has produced two other Tall Ferns, older sisters Charmian Mellars and Natalie Taylor.

Purcell had a two years stint at Hutchinson Community College before transferring to Brigham Young University.

In her first year at BYU in 2015-16 the Cougars won its first ever West Coast Conference regular season title and advanced to the NCAA championships.

She recently graduated as BYUs seventh all-time leading rebounder (753) and second all-time in rebounds per game (12.4).

In April was invited to a training camp with WNBA team Dallas Wings.

Debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2013.

Erin Rooney

Artego Bydgoszcz (Poland).

Position: Point Guard.

Born September 9,1990.

Rooney spent 4 years playing in the USA - two years at Monmouth University followed by a further two years at Fordham University.

Had an outstanding final year at Fordham leading the Rams to their first Atlantic 10 title in programme history. Named First Team All-Atlantic 10. Became the first player in Fordham Womens Basketball history to record 500 points, 200 rebounds and 150 assists in the same season.

Played professionally in France for two seasons in 2014-16.

In the recent European season played in Poland for Artego Bydgoszcz.

Debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2009.

Josephine Stockill

Sunbury Jets (Melbourne, Australia).

Position: Centre.

Born: January 29, 1993.

Graduated from Colgate University in 2016 after an outstanding four year career in which she set a number of Colgate records.

Stockill ended her collegiate career as the programme's career leader for blocked shots in a game (13), season (105) and career (241).

Currently playing her first professional season with Sunbury Jets. The Jets are coached by Tall Ferns coach Kennedy Kereama.

Debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2014.

Natalie Taylor

Brisbane Spartans (QBL, Australia).

Position: Forward.

Born: December 24, 1982.

Taylor (nee Purcell) joined older sister Charmian Purcell in the Tall Ferns in 2007.

She attended Hutchinson Community College, before transferring to Southeast Missouri State University.

Played for Christchurch Sirens in the 2007-8 Australian WNBL season ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Then played five seasons for Logan Thunder in the Australian WNBL either side of a season in Ireland.

Natalie helped University of Limerick to the 2011 Irish Super League title and was named Import Player of the Year.

Currently playing for Brisbane Spartans in the Queensland State League.

Debuted for Tall Ferns in 2007.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand