Kerr (27) will get her first taste of outright captaincy during the Good Luck Beijing tournament, the official Olympic test event, next week after sharing the role with veteran Jody Cameron during last year’s FIBA Oceania Championships.
The nuggety centre (1.82m), who is often left battling opponents many centimetres taller, is one of only two survivors from the 2004 Athens Olympics – the other is point guard Angela Marino – where she played an inspirational part in the Ferns’ progress to the quarterfinals.
“I’ve learnt from some of the best captains we’ve had,” she says. “I’m very excited … I’ve been around long enough, I have enough experience and know the girls pretty well now.”
A year ago, Kerr was rehabilitating after a second reconstruction of her left knee, missing most of the Tall Ferns’ international programme. Her form with the Christchurch Sirens was patchy as she struggled to get back on track, but two strong performances in practice games against Australia in Canberra last week showed she is near her very best.
“It has been frustrating getting through surgery and rehab, and trying to regain some confidence. Every time I feel like I’m coming back, I suffer another injury.
“But I’m getting there … there is still a bit to go. These games in will be perfect for me to see where I’m at and build on the games in Australia.”
The Tall Ferns played in China for an April 19-24 tournament and faced the host nation in a “friendly” at Ningbo.
“There are still a few girls in this team that don’t have a lot of international experience, especially the two new American girls, so this will be a good heads-up for them,” says Kerr.
“Playing against the top teams in the world will let us know where we are at this stage and what we need to work on.”
US-based forward Jillian Harmon has joined the squad after helping Stanford University to the NCAA final last week, reuniting with former schoolmate Clare Bodensteiner, who debuted at the Australian camp.
“They have settled in really well,” says Kerr. “They have gotten on well with the Kiwi girls, but poor Jillian’s head is probably going round in circles trying to learn plays as well as the names of the other players.”
“This a valuable opportunity to get a taste of what the Olympics will be like … there can be no better preparation.”
The Tall Fern squad, coached by Mike McHugh, is Suzie Bates, Clare Bodensteiner, Micaela Cocks, Toni Edmondson, Jillian Harmon, Aneka Kerr, Karlene Kingi, Angela Marino, Jess McCormack, Natalie Purcell, Lisa Wallbutton and Noni Wharemate.
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