Long-held Tall Ferns dream now reality for Richards

Zoe Richards. Photo: Supplied
Zoe Richards. Photo: Supplied
At first Zoe Richards thought she had done something wrong.

Then she thought her coach was playing a joke on her.

When she finally realised she had been picked for the Tall Ferns, she was still almost in disbelief.

The 21-year-old Otago Gold Rush forward has been called into the national basketball team squad, replacing the injured Charlotte Whittaker.

She leaves today for the team's preparation camp in Japan, before heading to Taiwan to play for the William Jones Cup.

There she will play several Asian-based teams.

It comes after she made a huge impact for the Gold Rush on her return from the United States, where she plays at Eckerd College.

The forward posted team-leading averages of 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

Despite that, it still took her by surprise when she got a text from Gold Rush coach Greg Brockbank.

She had been out for lunch with her family in Auckland while at the WBC finals.

He wanted to know when she would be back.

"He was like `I need to tell you something' and I was like `what have I done wrong?'," she laughed.

On returning, Brockbank told her he had been on the phone to Tall Ferns coach Guy Molloy.

He had been asking if she was available to join the team.

"I thought [Greg] was joking. He always knew I wanted to play for the Tall Ferns.

"I thought he was pulling my leg a little bit.

"Then he was like `no, I'm serious'."

She contacted her college to ensure she had clearance from the Eckerd end to play.

When that was obtained she confirmed her availability and set upon realising a dream.

"It's crazy, I've always dreamed about playing, it's always been my dream and one of my goals to play for the Tall Ferns.

"When I was young I had Casey Lockwood who played in the Tall Ferns, she coached me for a wee bit.

"So I always wanted to be like her and play for the Tall Ferns.

"I never thought it would actually happen.

"I always worked hard but I never represented a New Zealand team.

"So you know I was just hoping I'd get selected for a trial to get looked at, but I didn't even get that.

"It's amazing how fortunate I am to have this opportunity to represent New Zealand. I'm very honoured."

Afterwards she will return to play for Otago under-23, before heading back to Eckerd for her final year of college.


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