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NZL - Lockwood gets the call

AUCKLAND (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women) - The New Zealand Tall Ferns have decided to include Casey Lockwood as their naturalized player for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) for Women.

A former player at Princeton University, Lockwood travelled to New Zealand in 2009 for a working holiday on Stewart Island and eventually found her way onto the roster of the local club, the Pearls.

The 26-year-old power forward has since graduated to Australia’s Women's National Basketball League (WNBL).

She averaged 12 minutes per game in the recently-completed season with the Townsville Fire, where New Zealand international Micaela Cocks was a teammate.

Lockwood had tried to make the national side last year but coach Kennedy Kereama instead selected Rebecca Dew.

This summer, Lockwood also edged out Natasha Hall in the fight for the one naturalized spot teams are allowed to fill.

“It came down to performance on court during the camp and Casey brings us a different ex-factor entirely," Kereama said.

"Since she went away to Townsville, you can clearly see the improvements in her game and she’s playing fantastic basketball right now.”

Lockwood can hardly believe that she'll be a part of the Tall Ferns side to play at the OQT in Ankara, Turkey.

“It’s just a dream come true,” she said. “I’m so stoked to have the opportunity.”

New Zealand, meanwhile, have welcomed Charmian Mellars (formerly Purcell) back into the squad for the first time since the 2008 Olympics.

Karlene Kingi, a center, is in the squad while also returning are playmaker Noni Wharemate and guard Erin Rooney.

To prepare for their Group B games against Argentina and the Czech Republic at the OQT, the Tall Ferns will travel to China and play the Asian champions, Australia and Angola in tournaments being held in Wuxi and Changzhou.

New Zealand squad for FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women: Micaela Cocks, Toni Edmondson, Jillian Harmon, Jordan Hunter, Karlene Kingi, Casey Lockwood, Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe, Charmian Mellars, Erin Rooney, Natalie Taylor, Lisa Wallbutton and Noni Wharemate.