New Zealand 3X3 Head Coach Anthony Corban reflects on the past few days working out alongside and with Team USA as the New Zealand 3x3 teams prepare for the FIBA World Championships in Hungary in less than a week’s time.
The teams have worked hard at altitude and in warm conditions to acclimatize ahead of the tournament with both proving competitive against the Americans in scrimmages, the men in particular pushing their more experienced 3x3 American opponents, winning one of the two games played.
Here is a review of the past few days, starting with the women, all comments from Anthony Corban.
"It was always going to be a tough task stepping up and taking on gold medal favourites TEAM USA but the whole point of coming to Colorado Springs was to learn from the best women’s programme in world basketball—and girls learnt plenty today.
"TEAM USA punished every mistake we made. Punished us when leaving shooters open on the three point line for open looks—or closed out on shooter—with our hands down. The first game was a lot closer than score reflected and once they got over the intimidation factor of playing Team USA—we competed for everything, lose balls, rebounds—all around hustle plays.
"In second game it was the same costly defensive breakdowns that New Zealand got punished on—all the TEAM USA players can shoot the outside shot. A great learning experience for our young group. Today’s games will help make our group better for Hungary.
"The entire group had patches of great basketball during both games (10 minute stop clock games with 12-second shot clock and referees). Kelcy worked hard defensive rebounding and offensively around the basket. Krystal Leger-Walker drove aggressively at the rim and got our group into half-court sets. Tee grew in confidence throughout both games. Her speed off the dribble was difficult to guard. Kendell was impressive in the opening game against Team USA in defence and offence."
And on the men’s team and their progress:
"We came out firing early on against TEAM USA jumping on them for a quick 4-0 lead. But Team USA got themselves back into the game with aggressive driving towards the basket and finding open shooters.
"As a group we struggled defensively to rotate and close out on shooters… gave up too many open looks from the three point line and were punished. However this is what scrimmage games against quality opposition is all about. Experiencing and identifying areas of improvement before the main event (world champs).
"Second game against a group containing 3x3 World Tour players. Another positive and aggressive start was stopped momentarily by a six point burst from the Americans. After a quick time out—New Zealand quickly took control of the game and coasted to an easy victory.
"Tai Wynyard certainly challenged the rim with both hands throughout both games. His 3x3 game fitness and decision making will only improve with more game time.
Sam Timmins came into his own during the second game after struggling with the initial game speed in earlier game vs Team USA. Another to improve with more games.
Matt Freeman, his shooting form fell into place during the second game today. The more games played before Hungary—the better he will be. Nikau McCullough like all the group was clearly better for the first-up game versus Team USA. Starting to adjust well to leading this group getting into offensive systems."
"There is much to take from our time here so far, our athletes are still jet-lagged (sleep pattern messed up) and training at 6000 feet above sea level does test the fitness and mental toughness of athletes. Both groups struggled at times to execute some basic basketball fundamentals—due to fatigue.
"It is a great way to experience overcoming game scenarios before we get to Hungary… eg stopping a team on a scoring run and learning how to defend a lead. I am happy with the way both groups are coping with the intensity of this preparation camp. Today’s scrimmaging with Team USA can only help improve both New Zealand groups."
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