The New Zealand men’s and women’s 3x3 teams will depart for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia tonight to compete in the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup.
Longstanding New Zealand 3x3 Head Coach Anthony Corban says that although both teams are seeded in second spot for the event, they are in for a far bigger challenge than the points-based seeding system indicates.
“For starters, this event is in Mongolia. Ulaanbaatar is 5000 feet above sea level, so high-altitude sickness could be a factor. With only a couple of days to acclimatise before our first game, the thin air will be a big test.
“Also 3x3 requires a completely different strategy and mindset that the five-aside format. Five of the eight selected athletes have never played 3x3 before, which includes the task of playing under the 12 second shot clock. Players only have 21 points to defend in a game too. These are 3x3 basics that don’t come naturally to players used to the five-aside game.
“We’ve had three camps to prepare for this and I’ve been drilling in the basics, including the importance of clear thinking and understanding shot selection, and personal accountability with defensive decision making. If we turn up with the wrong mindset and are not locked into the style of game we want to play, then the game will be over very quickly.”
Coach Corban says the women’s team suffered a big loss at the first camp when experienced 3x3 player and Tall Fern Georgia Agnew broke a finger. That injury opened up an opportunity for former New Zealand age-group representative Stirling Walker-Pitman, who has been a reserve for the Under 18 3x3 women’s team in 2015 and 2016. Former Tall Fern Tash Lenden will also suit up. The experienced Deena Franklin, who has attended two previous international 3x3 tournaments and Tall Ferns tours to her name, will lead the group. Plus Tall Fern Jess Bygate will add much needed height and energy around the basket, slotting into the second Big spot.
Coach Corban said the unlucky player not to be named in this team was Milomilo Nanai.
“After time away from basketball, Milomilo showed rapid improvement throughout each camp. Her time will come in this international programme in 2018. Not selecting Milomilo was one of my toughest calls,” said Corban.
“I’m pleased with what this team brings though – we are a well-balanced team with an inside-outside style of game. We have two energetic and hard-working Bigs in Deena [Franklin] and Jess [Bygate], who score back-to-the-basket or off the on-ball screen. Both are relentless defensive and offensive rebounders, which is a key to any successful 3x3 team.
“Walker-Pitman is one of the toughest defensive guards I have coached. Since she has been in the U18 programme for the last two years, she also understands the level of leadership and basketball IQ required to be a Point Guard in this format of the game. Her knowledge of our offensive and dead-ball sets will be crucial to leading this group,” says Corban.
The men’s team will see the re-emergence of former Tall Black Everard Bartlett and NZ Select’s Alonzo Burton, who Coach Corban said were undeniable selections for this team.
“Both were outstanding contributors at each camp with their set shooting and ability to get to the basket off the dribble. They each have the skill-set to space the floor and knock down open shots consistently, and both have the capability to play the Guard role and get the team into sets.”
Corban says Tom Vodanovich, who has returned to New Zealand after four year at James Madison University in Harrisonbeurg, Virginia, made the most of his opportunity presented by the 3x3 camps.
“He impressed with his work rate around the basket and on court hustle to secure a spot in the team.”
Rounding out the team is the very experienced 3x3 player Rory Fannon, who Coach Corban says has an important role in the team.
“He has been a consistent, positive contributor to this group. Rory will do all the dirty work around the basket – defensive rebounds, offensive put-backs and setting strong screens for our guards.
“Sam Dempster was the unlucky player. He performed consistently at each camp, but the need to roll with a power/small forward behind Fannon saw Dempster miss out on this trip,” said Corban.
Two teams from each pool of three will progress to the Quarter Finals. The New Zealand women are in Pool D with Kyrgystan and India. The New Zealand men are in Pool B with Qatar and the winner of Qualifying Draw 1 (Turkmenistan, Australia and Malaysia).
New Zealand women's first game will be against India on 27 October at 10:50pm NZT (5:50pm in Mongolia. New Zealand men’s first game will be against the winners of Qualifying Draw A, 28 October at 7:50pm NZT (2:50pm in Mongolia).
All games will be livestreamed . For more on the event go to FIBA's Tournaments webpage here
Women’s 3x3 New Zealand Team:
Men’s 3x3 New Zealand Team:
Anthony Corban, Head Coach
Leanne Walker, Assistant Coach