Jack Salt is relishing the chance to once again pull on the black singlet in the upcoming FIBA World Cup Qualifying windows, that chance coming some five years after he debuted for the MBO Tall Blacks as a raw and inexperienced 17-year-old.
The University of Virginia starter has come along way since then, in the process filling out his 6’10” frame to a muscle bound 115kg, and his desire to play for his country is stronger than ever.
“It would be an honour. I have always valued representing my country, but unfortunately for the past three or four years I have not been able to come home and trial which I have been pretty sad about, but I am definitely looking forward to this opportunity, it will mean a lot to me.
“My coach in America has allowed me to do some of my course online, which allows me to come and trial for the Tall Blacks, but I haven’t played for the team in such a long time. In fact haven’t played in New Zealand for four years, so I am really looking forward to the opportunity.”
At 22 years old, Salt is a different physical specimen this time around, with his already imposing frame loaded with more muscle that enables him to boss the paint – especially on the defensive end of the floor.
“Physically I have matured in my body a little bit, and I am more aware of myself and being at the school I am at, my defence has improved, the defence we play is very demanding and I have picked up those tendencies.
“I am trying to be aggressive and finish on the inside. It is a little bit of everything, I am just looking to polish off my game during my time in the States and I can’t wait to go up against the guys in a trial situation.”
Salt has kept in regular contact with Basketball New Zealand and Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare. He is aware of what the team has achieved so far and what a couple of wins at home will mean to their FIBA 2019 World Cup aspirations.
“I know both games are big for us and can count towards the World Cup, and I think it will be huge for us to go and get a win on home soil. This will be a big game, but for me the excitement at the moment is just about trialing for the team.
Salt is a great student of the game. He can’t wait to be a sponge around some of the more experienced Tall Blacks and has his eye on a certain NBA star as well, hoping he too might make himself available for this window.
“Mika (Vukona) has been my idol for so long. Just watching him play and then having the chance to spend a season with him at the Breakers and Tall Blacks, he is an amazing leader and player. With Steve (Adams) what an opportunity that would be to maybe train and play alongside him, seeing how well he has done and what he is contributing back home, they are two guys that I would love to play with.”
Salt capped off a strong year at UVA by being named the recipient of the T. Rodney Crowley Jr. Memorial Scholarship. (CLICK HERE
for more on the UVA website)
“I was honoured to receive the award, not as the best student, but more for my all-round character. I was very honoured given the quality of people who have received this before me. I was lucky to receive it, with a year’s paid education – so if I want to come back at some time and further my education I have that option – as my current status is covered by my athletic scholarship.”
An anthropology major as an undergraduate, Salt will pursue a master’s degree in UVA’s Curry School of Education next academic year, his fourth year of college basketball eligibility.
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.