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New Zealand coach Kennedy Kereama
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Tall Ferns roster finalized for WOQT

GIJON (2016 FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - New Zealand coach Kennedy Kereama has settled on his 12 players that he believes gives the team its best chance of reaching the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Krystal Leger-Walker and Jessica Bygate have been cut from the side that will take on France and Cuba at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament (WOQT), which tips off next Monday in Nantes.

New Zealand 12-player roster for 2016 FIBA WOQT
 Stella Beck  Micaela Cocks  Penina Davidson  Antonia Edmondson
 Deena Franklin  Jillian Harmon  Jordan Hunter  Chevannah Paalvast
 Kalani Purcell  Erin Rooney  Josie Stockill  Lisa Wallbutton

If the Tall Ferns are successful and claim one of the five spots on offer for the Rio Games, Leger-Walker and Bygate could still be added to the roster. The former has competed for the country's youth national teams, including the 2014 FIBA Oceania U18 Championship for Women.

The latter was a member of the Tall Ferns side that played against Australia in last year's FIBA Oceania Women's Championship.

"It was a tough decision as both players bring so much and the coaching staff spent a long time agonizing over the decision," Kereama said. "However, it is important to remember that if we qualify for Rio all 16 original squad members will get a chance to come back and re-trial. I am confident both will go home and work hard and be ready for a call-up at any time. Injuries happen, sickness happens, we are hoping we don't have to replace anyone under those circumstances, but it is a reality."

The decision was made before New Zealand's last two friendlies against Spain, another of the teams getting ready for the WOQT. The sides meet on Wednesday in Gijon and again on Friday in Oviedo.

Among those in the 12-player squad are co-captain Micaela Cocks, Jillian Harmon and Lisa Wallbutton. All three were members of the Tall Ferns squad that played at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The Kiwis will also rely heavily on Antonia Edmondson, the other co-captain, as well as guards Chevannah Paalvast and Erin Rooney, a pair of American college basketball players, Kalani Purcell of Brigham Young and Penina Davidson of California.

"We have surrounded our vets with players who can fulfill roles and support them when needed," Kereama said. "This will be the deepest our bench has been for sometime and in most of the build up games we have had we have lost nothing when we have had to rotate."