The New Zealand Tall Ferns squad embarks on a tour to Japan and Taiwan this week.

This young blood Tall Ferns team faces a tough task ahead. The Japan womens national team are a strong, fully professional side who are ranked 13 in the world and are the FIBA Asia Champions. Yet New Zealand womens basketball is known for its toughness. Last year a strong Tall Ferns team beat the Japan Select team at the William Jones Cup 75-72. The Japanese Womens Head Coach, Tom Hovasse, says hes looking forward to the opportunities presented by the visiting Kiwis.

"Over the past five years that I have been with the womens national team, Japan and New Zealand have always had a great relationship. New Zealand has strong players and they always play hard, so I thought that it would be a great chance for us as we prepare for the World Championships in Spain in September," said Hovasse.

For his part Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy has great respect for the Japanese style of play and has expressed publically his admiration of their programme.

"The chance to play the Japanese National Team, the current Asian champions, is very exciting. The Japanese are great three-point shooters, fast, skillful and spread the floor well. My vision is to add these attributes to the traditional Kiwi culture and strengths, and thus form a distinctive new game style," said Molloy.

Coach Hovasse is flattered by Molloys praise.

"It's always nice to hear positive things about our style of play especially by such a well-respected coach as Coach Molloy. It's difficult to beat the bigger teams in the world, Australia, USA, China, etc, in the half-court game because they have too much of an advantage in size and strength. Using the entire court and playing to your teams strengths gives you a chance," said the Coach Hovasse.

Japan and the Tall Ferns will go head to head on three occasions in the coming days. They will meet twice in Japan on July 20 and 22 and again at the William Jones Cup in Taiwan on July 29. The first two games are closed-door friendlies.

Only Kalani Purcell remains from the team that won bronze at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April for the upcoming tour. This is an intentional ploy by Coach Molloy as the tour presents an opportunity to create a wider selection base as the womens national team begins its preparation for the 2020 Olympics qualifying campaign beginning next year having missed out on 2018 World Cup Qualification. (More on the team selection here).

One debutant has had a great lead-up to this tour. Nicole Ruske, the only member of the squad that hasnt spent time in the American college system, has had a brilliant season with the Otago Gold Rush in the Womens Basketball Championships (WBC) whilst managing her studies of Psychology at Otago University. She was named in WBC All-Star Five after playing a key role for the Gold Rush as they claimed the 2018 WBC title last weekend in Dunedin.

"Im so excited to be on such a trip. I was so shocked when I found out I had been selected. Ive been working real hard towards it and Im looking forward to getting over there.

"Ive come through the New Zealand age-group programmes with Alyssa and Tera which is awesome. Also knowing a couple of players in the team makes it less scary - the Junior Tall Ferns was such a great pathway," Ruske added.

The Tall Ferns will play three games in Japan before heading to Taiwan to compete at the William Jones Cup (July 25-29).

It will be the 40th edition of the William Jones Cup. In addition to New Zealand (ranked 42nd in the world) the tournament will feature Korea (16th), Chinese Taipei (40th), Chinese Taipei B and India (45th) and of course Japan (13th).

New Zealand Tall Ferns Team

Stella Beck (Townsville Flames/Formerly St Marys College, California)

Jacinta Beckley (Formerly Seattle University)

Brooke Blair (Harbour Breeze/ Rockhampton Cyclones/Formerly Idaho State University)

Tessa Boagni (Alloyfold CanterburyWildcats/Formerly California State University, Northridge)

Penina Davidson (Harbour Breeze/Formerly University of California, Berkeley)

Alyssa Hirawani (Waikato Wizards/Formerly Murray State College)

Ashleigh Karaitiana (Bendigo Spirit)

Kalani Purcell (Melbourne Boomers/South West Metro Pirates)

Tera-Akiene Reed (Harbour Breeze/Virginia Commonwealth University)

Nicole Ruske (Otago Gold Rush)

Tall Ferns Schedule:

In Tokyo

July 20 v Japan

July 21 v Fujitsu Redwaves

July 22 v Japan

At William Jones Cup in Taiwan:

July 25 v India

July 26 v Korea

July 27 v Chinese Taipei A

July 28 v Chinese Taipei B

July 29 v Japan

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