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After only four days in camp, new Tall Ferns head coach Shawn Dennis has described his team’s improvement as “immense”.

New Zealand’s young Tall Ferns squad meets Japan in a one-off international at Napier’s Pettigrew.Green Arena on Thursday night, tip-off 7pm, as part of their preparations for next week’s FIBA Oceania Championship for Women.

New Zealand, with an average age just under 21 and without Beijing Olympian Natalie Purcell, went down 64-51 to Japan in a closed scrimmage on Wednesday.

Eight debutantes – Natalie Moore, Chelsea Terei, Zoe Kensington, Erin Rooney, Pip Connell, Georgina Richards, Natasha Hall and Kim Barnes – saw their first court-time in Tall Ferns colours on Wednesday.

“When you’ve got eight debutantes in your team and to take a team in Japan, that has probably been together for a couple of months that close is great,” Dennis said.

“It was a great start to our campaign and a great way to get eight new girls into international basketball.”

Purcell, who plays for the Logan Thunder in the Australian Women’s National Basketball League, joined the camp in Napier on Thursday morning and may take the court tonight.

Dennis, assisted by Kennedy Hamilton and Aik Ho, has been impressed by the progress made by his fresh squad that includes only guards Suzie Bates and Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe, and forwards Lisa Wallbutton and Purcell from last year’s Olympic team.

“The improvement from the first training on Sunday night to now has been immense. And it’s heartening as a coach to know that when we get these girls in this environment that we can get this much out of them.”

An 18-5 third quarter for the tourists was the difference in Wednesday’ scrimmage. Guard Edmondson top-scored with 14 points for the Tall Ferns, who had eight debutantes take the court.

Dennis said Wednesday’s scrimmage had exposed his new players to the speed and pressure that comes with international basketball.

“I’d hope now they understand it a little better and know how to handle the pressure and understand where we want to go.”

The teams head to Porirua on Saturday, where they play another closed scrimmage, before New Zealand meets the defending world champion Australian Opals, guided by former Tall Ferns head coach Carrie Graf, in game one of the FIBA Oceania series at Te Rauparaha Arena on Monday night, tip-off 7.30pm.

New Zealand Tall Ferns vs Japan

New Zealand Tall Ferns

Chelsea Terei, Zoe Kensington, Natalie Moore, Toni Edmondson, Natalie Purcell, Erin Rooney, Samara Gallaher, Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe, Pip Connell, Georgina Richards, Natasha Hall, Kim Barnes, Lisa Wallbutton, Suzie Bates

Head coach: Shawn Dennis
Assistant coach: Kennedy Hamilton
Assistant coach: Aik Ho
Manager: Natalie Tong
Physio: Karen Sutton


Noriko Koiso, Naomi Yashiro, Akiko Obata, Ai Mitani, Yuka Watanabe, Yoshie Sakurada, Reika Takahashi, Kumiko Yamada, Asami Yoshida, Yuko Oga, Maki Takada, Ryoko Utsumi

Head coach: Fumikazu Nakagawa
Assistant coach: Toshihiro Gotoh
Assistant coach: Masanori Kato
Trainer: Yu Shimizu
Trainer: Naoko Ohara
Manager: Miho Sato
Scouting: Toru Onzuka


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