The Tall Ferns have to cause an upset in Asia but coach Guy Molloy says the focus also needs to be on what is happening at home.
By Felicity Reid for rnz.co.nz
The women's domestic basketball competition had to change if the Tall Ferns were going to foot it with the best in the game, Molloy said.
A "fairly barren calendar" for New Zealand-based Tall Ferns prospects over the coming months concerned the experienced coach.
"If we want to compete in the major tournaments on the world stage we can't escape the fact that we are playing and competing against these fully professional countries, so the competitive opportunities have got to be great domestically in New Zealand."
After a three-week tour of New Zealand checking in on the next generation of talent, followed by a five-day national camp, Molloy is now locked down in Melbourne with plenty of time to plot how to get the Tall Ferns into the top four finishers at the Asia Cup in September.
"We are in a region that hosts three of the top 10 teams in the world - in Australia, China and Japan - so they're fully professional women's basketball countries, so claiming a major scalp of one of those given our tough preparation is going to be really difficult but that fourth spot is up for grabs.
"This women's programme it is fair to say is in the middle tier of teams in Asia but has got the potential to push towards the upper echelon of teams and we can't do that without the government support but if it lands then I think we can make some great strides with it."
The Tall Ferns are currently ranked fifth in Asia, just behind South Korea who they comprehensively beat they last time they played.
Since taking over the head coach role just prior to the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Molloy had seen the number of athletes he would consider putting on court increase.
Ahead of the Commonwealth Games Molloy said the management team "struggled" to get 12 players together.
Now he had nearly 40 players to consider.
"That is a massive growth in our depth and the fact that there is competition there for spots is the best thing we can have."
Over the coming weeks Molloy would let those players who had made the squad for the Asia Cup know what he wanted from them.
Molloy had tough training and fitness schedules planned and still had hopes of getting the local players some more court time.
He was also aware of what his players - who would be based across New Zealand, Australia and America - faced.
"In many cases we're asking players that are amateurs to think and train and prepare like they are professionals but at the same time to live a life where they can study and earn enough money to feed themselves and house themselves so that's our handicap."
The Covid-19 pandemic had also highlighted to Molloy the need for more support staff for the team.
"We need to have a broader staff than what we presently do, or access to more professionals that can help resource and prepare our teams that aren't just restricted to one place and one country."
The Asia Cup is scheduled to take place from 27 September to 3 October in India.
Molloy hoped the "humanitarian crisis in India" would get basketball's international governing body, Fiba, to change their mind and move the tournament, which also has spots for the world cup qualifiers on offer, to another country.