In an exciting development for the Aon New Zealand U17 boys’ basketball team, Coach Daryl Cartwright will be re-joining Basketball New Zealand as Head Coach.
Cartwright has already achieved tremendous success at an age-group level coach, particularly when he was the Head Coach of the Junior Tall Blacks (JTBs) team that defeated Australia in 2016 to qualify for the 2017 Under 19 FIBA World Cup. This was before New Zealand was part of the FIBA Asia Zone, where New Zealand junior teams were tasked with beating Australia to qualify.
After taking time away from national coaching duties in 2018, Cartwright says he’s thrilled to be stepping back into the Basketball New Zealand High Performance system.
“It is always an honour when you get to be part of a New Zealand national side and it will be a new challenge working with a new age group after being involved in two JTB campaigns. Work commitments meant I had to step out of the current JTB and that was really hard to do, so I am really looking forward to working with this group and seeing what we can achieve.”
Coach Cartwright’s campaign with the 2017 JTBs featured names like Sam Waardenburg, Isaac Letoa, Angus McWilliam and Quinn Clinton, who are all playing NCAA Division 1 basketball on scholarship the US. Cartwright says he hopes that victory, which was the first time a junior New Zealand team qualified for a World Cup, sparked a real belief for Kiwi players and coaches.
“I hope it showed that we are capable, but it takes a lot of dedication and sacrifice to attain that level of success,” says Cartwright.
Now in the FIBA Asia Zone, New Zealand teams fight for a top four spot to qualify for a World Cup. New Zealand teams are making the most of their opportunity, with the current Junior Tall Blacks heading to the FIBA U19 men’s World Cup in Greece, starting 29 June this year. While New Zealand teams are proving they can match it with Asia’s best, Cartwright says it’s not easy.
“I think the new system is great for our athletes coming through the age groups and our Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns. There is a real opportunity to gain exposure to a wider group of international teams. But the pathway through the Asia Championships is no easy feat and the Asian countries will be working hard to do all they can to prevent two countries from Oceania qualifying in the top four.”
Given Cartwright’s history in the New Zealand system already, he has noticed changes. But are we getting better as a nation of basketballers? Cartwright says yes, but mainly due to key factors such as opportunity and better coaching.
“I think we will always have reasonable ‘talent’ in our country – we are a sporting nation and there are so many opportunities available to our young people. Where I see a change is in the number of athletes to select from growing and the quality of coaches working with the players in their regions is showing through in their development. We need that for our sport to continue to grow, there has to be real competition to make regional rep teams and through to national teams to drive our players to work hard to stay ahead of the pack. That’s what is going to lift our overall level in New Zealand.
“BBNZ have committed to growing the game as part of their strategic direction and, by investing in a High Performance role, we have real credibility for our sport as an emerging powerhouse in this country. Cost is a real factor for participating in basketball. As a sport we rely on so many volunteers to put time into developing our younger talent that this strategy gives a directive to hopefully guide our players’ development. If successful, we will see the benefits of funding then start to flow in and that will allow for the costs to our athletes’ families to start to come down hopefully.”
With Cartwright already having achieved a lot as a coach, and considering the personal sacrifices junior national coaches must make, it’s great to see a coach like Cartwright return. So what kept Cartwright interested in signing up again? He says the reward comes in seeing the growth, development and success of young Kiwis in the game.
“For me the goals I set in these roles are about the players I am coaching. I want these boys to have the opportunity to play on the world stage and compete against the best other 15 countries in the world. The experience and exposure they get from event like this is so valuable for their careers and goals they may have in the sport of basketball.”
Coach Cartwright’s team will be looking to qualify for the 2020 FIBA U17 World Cup by seeking a top four finish in this year’s FIBA U16 Asia Championship. The first selection camp for the team will be held on 23-27 April, by invitation only.
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