Nelson basketballer in Rio contention

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Nelson basketballer Jessica Bygate has been selected for the Tall Ferns basketball squad touring China and Europe ahead of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France next month.

24-year-old Jessica was playing for the Adelaide Lightning/Sunbury Jets but is currently in Auckland for a two day preparation camp before flying to China on Wednesday.

The squad of 14 comprises of four New Zealand domiciled players, four American Collegiate players and six overseas based professional players.

In June the squad will be trimmed to 12 for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France.

Head Coach Kennedy Kereama says the depth in the women’s programme is at an all-time high.

“Competition for places in the touring party of 14 was intense and it will be an even tougher call to name a final 12 for the Olympic Qualifiers in France.”

In France the Tall Ferns will assemble alongside 12 other nations with the top five teams earning a spot at Rio.

While New Zealand’s 22nd world ranking has them clearly ranked as underdogs, Kereama is backing his team to mix it with the best in France.

“Our build up for the Olympic Qualifier is great. We are playing a number of good teams – in fact nine of the ten are ranked above us, so we will be pushed during every game. We need the best competition possible and the tougher the games the better the preparation for our Olympic Qualification Series.”