WELLINGTON (Olympics) – New Zealand have named seven Christchurch Sirens in their final squad for the Olympics while also including Jillian Harmon and her former Stanford Cardinal teammate Clare Bodensteiner.
Bodensteiner's birthplace is Christchurch, while Harmon qualified to play for the Kiwis because her mother had once lived in the country and obtained citizenship. The two grew up in the United States and only joined the national team earlier this year.
Both played in the 2008 Beijing Basketball Test Event where the Tall Ferns celebrated their first-ever triumph over Oceania rivals Australia.
Suzie Bates, captain Aneka Kerr, Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe, Charmian Purcell and her sister Natalie, Lisa Wallbutton and Noni Wharemate are the Sirens involved, along with their head coach Leigh Gooding who will assist Tall Ferns boss Mike McHugh.
McMeeken-Ruscoe, a 1.75m guard, has recovered from an early-season knee injury which kept her out of the 208 Beijing test event.
Adelaide Lightning point guard Angela Marino, Micaela Cocks, a guard who has played college basketball at the University of Oregon, and 1.94m center Jessica McCormack, an 18-year-old who has just transferred to the American college powerhouse University of Connecticut Huskies, complete the group.
McHugh, an assistant to Tom Maher on the 2004 team, said: “It was one of the most difficult selection decisions I’ve been through in 15 to 16 years of international basketball.
“It’s the strongest team we could have selected for the Olympics.
“But because there are only two players back from the Athens Olympic Games (Kerr and Marino) it is a very young and inexperienced team at the Olympic level, even though we’ve had a great build-up over the last year and a half.”
The Tall Ferns are in Group B and play their opening game at the Beijing Olympics against African champions Mali on August 9.
They then have clashes against hosts China, who are now coached by ex-Australia and New Zealand boss Maher, three-time defending champions the United States, Spain and the Czech Republic.
New Zealand Olympic squad: Suzie Bates, Clare Bodensteiner, Micaela Cocks, Jillian Harmon, Aneka Kerr, Angela Marino, Jessica McCormack, Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe, Charmian Purcell Forward, Natalie Purcell, Lisa Wallbutton and Noni Wharemate.
– but the sailors praise the new boats