Taylor-made for the job
Forward Natalie Taylor doesn’t think much will change now she’s been named Tall Ferns captain for this year’s Olympic qualifying campaign.
In her sixth year with the NZ women’s national basketball team, Taylor (nee Purcell) has been selected by her peers to lead the side into this month’s last-ditch attempt to earn a spot in the draw at London. In the process, she’s beaten out several other more experienced candidates, some of whom have already captained their country, including incumbent Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe.
“I felt pretty humbled and privileged when it was announced, but also excited to take on the leadership role,” admits Taylor (29). “It definitely helped being part of the leadership group last year, so that makes the transition easier and provides consistency.
“I’ll still be able to play the way I play. The group we have is experienced and we’ve been playing together for some time, so being able to share the leadership is easy with these girls.
“We’re all on the same page, and share the same desire to win and play for each other within our systems.”
The players’ decision makes sense. At 32, McMeeken-Ruscoe has hinted this could be her final year with the Ferns, while fellow veterans Noni Wharemate and Charmian Mellars – Taylor’s older sister – have only just returned to the ranks after time away.
Now, Taylor gets a chance to take advantage of those wise heads around her while she gets used to her new responsibility. She already boasts an impressive playing CV that includes a standout college career at Southeast Missouri State University, and professional stints in Ireland and Australia, where she is on contract with the Logan Thunder.
“Natalie’s credentials are respected among the players and coaching staff,” says head coach Kennedy Kereama. “She’s a true professional and whether she knows it or not, she’s led the team by her performances on and off the court, a trend that started shortly after the Beijing Olympics.”
In fact, Taylor has probably been the Ferns’ top performer so far on their current tour of China, scoring a team-high 19 points in their only win over African champions Angola last time out.
New Zealand, along with Angola, China and Australia’s Emerging Opals, have now travelled to Changzhou for another round of games – the Ferns face their hosts on Wednesday night. The Kiwis are then scheduled for two outings against China “B”, before heading to Ankara, Turkey, for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
There, 12 teams will compete for the last five spots at London and the Tall Ferns begin pool play against world No. 4 Czech Republic on June 25.