The Junior Tall Blacks have touched down in Bangkok and are ready to roll for their first game at the FIBA Under 18 Asian Championship on Sunday.
The boys have their sights set on the FIBA U19 World Cup next year and require a top-four finish in Bangkok to secure their spot. They competed at the World Cup in Cairo last year, placing 11th.
New Zealand has been placed in Pool C with Australia, Thailand and Bahrain. Australia will arguably be their toughest test, but the other two teams are ranked outside of the top-60 in the U19 world rankings. New Zealand comes in as the 33rd ranked team in the world.
The schedule is packed pretty tight, with each team having to play on three consecutive days out of the gate. New Zealand’s first game is against Bahrain on Sunday evening at 5:45pm NZT. They’ll play Thailand the following day at 8:30pm, and then Australia awaits them on Tuesday at 3:30pm.
The first placed team in each pool will automatically qualify for the quarterfinals, while the second and third placed teams in each pool will have to play-off for a spot on August 8.
Assistant Coach Miles Pearce said preparations for the tournament have gone very well, but the team is having to adjust to life in Bangkok.
“We had a great practice this morning. Everyone came into camp fit and healthy and now it’s just about getting everyone up to speed with what we’re doing,” said Pearce.
“I think one of the biggest things is being in a van six hours per day getting to and from practice. Bangkok is a big place, so it’s not like we can just pop down the street like we do back home. Aside from that the food’s been great, the accommodation is fantastic, and it’s been a really good experience so far.”
Pearce said the team is hoping to use their underdog status to surprise a few people.
“FIBA has us ranked a little lower than we would have liked so that’s always good fuel to use, but hopefully everyone’s on the same page so we can get that top-four berth and get to the world champs next year.”
All of the games will be livestreamed on FIBA’s Youtube channel, and you can also watch New Zealand’s games on the Basketball New Zealand Facebook page.
Team schedule (all times NZT):
August 5 vs. Bahrain @ 5:45pm
August 6 vs. Thailand @ 8:30pm
August 7 vs. Australia @ 3:30pm
August 8-11: Classification and Finals
2018 Junior Tall Blacks (New Zealand Under 19)
Flynn Cameron, New Zealand
Matthew O’Connell, Taranaki
Tama Faamausili, Palmerston North
Max DeGeest, Canterbury
Kruz Perrott-Hunt, Harbour
Oscar Oswald, Palmerston North
Maxim Stephens, Waikato
Max Darling, Canterbury
Tomas Higgins, Canterbury
James Moors, Harbour
Sam Mennenga, Harbour
Nathan Hanna, Otago
Gavin Briggs - Head Coach
Miles Pearce - Assistant Coach
Leyton Haddleton - Assistant Coach
Charles Maaka - Team Manager
Dawn Chalmers - Team Physio
· See FIBA’s tournament website here: https://www.fiba.basketball/asia/u18/2018
· More basketball news at www.nz.basketball and Basketball New Zealand’s social media channels: @BasketballNZ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.