MBO Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare is energized and excited ahead of the FIBA World Cup Qualifying matches in June (v Hong Kong at Rotorua on June 28th) and July (v China at Spark Arena on July 1st).
The plan is to have an extensive and wide-reaching camp ahead of the final two matches in the first phase of qualifying, before a final roster of 12 is named to take on Hong Kong and China, with wins in both matches critical to their ongoing quest to qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
The question on everyone’s lips as always, is will Steven Adams be a part of the roster for the two games?
“We haven’t yet had word from Steven as to his availability either way, he is in the midst of his debrief process post-season with OKC. I have reached out to him and as an organization all we can do is make sure everything is in place and available for Steve and his team should he decide to come in and play during this next FIBA window. We have communicated that to OKC, we will put anything in place we need to in order to have him pull on that black jersey.
“The timing obviously is good, it is for all of our players with leagues taking a break around the world, but ultimately it is Steven’s decision and we will no doubt hear from him soon or when he comes back to New Zealand in the weeks ahead.”
Henare may not yet know about Adams, but he is excited at the quality and depth of talent available and likely to be back in New Zealand for the camp ahead of the two games.
“We are looking at bringing quite a number of players back into camp ahead of this window, to not only prepare for the upcoming window on the 28th June, but also to bring everyone together in the same room, same place. Some of these kids in the States have either never been a part of our programme or have had a decent break since they were with us, it is a great time to bring them all in and get everyone on the same page.
“We have a wider squad that stems from the young group with took to the Asia Cup, players in the NCAA system and all the regulars in our wider playing squad – it is a decent number, we have 25 or 30 we can call on to play for the Tall Blacks. This is possibly a position we have never been in before, to have so many players capable of playing at that level.”
Some of the players being referred to include Jack Salt, Matt Freeman, Sam Timmins, Sam Wardenburg, Isaac Letoa and many, many more who are plying their basketball trade and continuing their educations in the States, many of them at NCAA Division One programmes.
Henare stresses the importance of the games and the desire to see great support from the basketball community, in both Rotorua and Auckland – with the match against China quite possibly one of the biggest and most important games in Tall Blacks history – a FIBA World Cup qualifier against a full strength Chinese team on home soil.
“These games are huge, they mean so much for us going forward into the next phase of qualifying for the World Cup. Teams carry their points through to the next round and it is likely we will play Jordan, Syria and Lebanon in the next round – with all the demands of travel and the quality of those teams, we need to carry as many points through as we can in order to finish in the top three to go to the World Cup next year.”
FIBA World Cup Qualifiers: Round 1, Group A – Tall Blacks Games
New Zealand is in Group A for the first window, along with China, South Korea and Hong Kong. The top three will progress and carry points through to next window of qualifying.
• 23 November v South Korea, in Wellington. (Tall Blacks lost 80 – 86)
• 26 November v Hong Kong, in Hon Kong. (Tall Blacks won 133 – 74).
• 23 February v China, Dongguan Basketball Center, China. (Tall Blacks won 82 – 73)
• 26 February v South Korea, Jamsil Arena, Seoul. (Tall Blacks won 93 – 84)
• 28 June v Hong Kong, Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. 7pm.
• 1 July v China, Spark Arena, Auckland. 3:30pm.
MBO Tall Blacks vs Hong Kong in Rotorua on 28 June and vs China in Auckland on 1 July on sale 8 May here: http://www.ticketmaster.co.nz/New-Zealand-Tall-Blacks-tickets/artist/1132500?tm_link=artist_artistvenue_module
• The meaning of Tu Kaha, the Tall Blacks haka
• Learn more about the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers (Asia Zone).
• Tall Blacks supporters gear can be purchased here.
• Follow the Tall Blacks’ social media channels: @TallBlacks Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
• Tall Blacks media releases.
• All Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifying games will be broadcast by Maori Television.