The MBO Tall Blacks got their first workout ahead of the upcoming FIBA World Cup Qualifiers in Beirut (13th v Syria) and Rotorua (17th v Lebanon) with a 92-58 win over Qatar, with Finn Delany and Dion Prewster leading the team on offence on a steamy Doha evening.
Head Coach Paul Henare took the chance to spread the minutes across his entire roster, as the team puts the finishing touches on their preparation for the games against Syria and Lebanon, the first in the final stage of qualifying for the World Cup in China next year.
Delany led all scorers with 23 points (and 5 rebounds), while Prewster was another to provide plenty of spark from the bench with his 13 points, with point guard Shea Ili chipping in with 11 points.
While Qatar struggled to stay with the higher ranked New Zealanders, the hosts gave plenty for Henare to think about as he ponders bigger matches in the days ahead.
“I think after being together a couple of days and coming from the other side of the world I thought it was pretty good, we came out with good intent and defensively got after it. It wasn’t always perfect, we still have plenty to work on, but we moved the ball well, shared the ball and shot the ball well in patches and everyone contributed so like I say, happy in terms of where we are at but there is plenty to improve on.”
A game like tonight’s was always going to be less about the opposition and more about the Tall Blacks own systems, as they fine tune for the game in Beirut and then back home in Rotorua against one of the stronger teams in Asia in Lebanon.
“We are focusing on us and what we are trying to achieve from a systematic point of view. Obviously, they are going to do the same and we have to adjust at the defensive end and from that point of view there are things we can get better at. We were ill disciplined on fouls at times and gave up easy baskets by losing sight of our man and basic fundamental things. But that is good, at this stage of the campaign we want to work towards areas of improvement and we have time to do that.”
Henare was pleased with the output of Delany and Prewster, but found plenty to like about the energy of the entire group, as everyone found a way to get involved.
“They gave us good punch off the bench, we will need multiple guys to contribute. I thought Rueben Te Rangi started us off really well, he attacked the basket and made some really good plays. The starting group got us off on the right track and the guys off the bench came in and kept it ticking over and lifting the energy as well. That is who we are as a team, we need multiple guys to contribute and on Sunday another few guys will put their hands up, that is one of the strengths of this group.”
One of the highlights of the evening was the support of 30 to 40 local ex-pat Kiwis, who found their way to the stadium and took great delight in flying the flag and meeting the team for autographs and photos afterwards.
“That was amazing, we were told there might be some Kiwis but to see so many of them here supporting us and for them to spend some time on the floor with the guys afterwards getting photos and autographs, that was special.
“Whenever we can be away from home and have that familiar feel makes it that much more special, I hope they also enjoyed the game and the chance to mix and mingle afterwards as well.”
MBO Tall Blacks 92 (Delany 23, Prewster 13, Ili 11)
FIBA World Cup Qualifying
Along with China and Korea, New Zealand has crossed over into Group E, carrying points from their earlier group with them (5 wins, 1 loss), and will play home and away games against Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Group F contains Australia, Iran, Philippines, Japan, Kazakhstan and Qatar.
The top three teams in each of the two final groups will qualify for China 2019, along with the best fourth placed team from the two final groups. Complicating the process is that China, as hosts of the World Cup, do not count in the final placings, but will continue to play out their remaining matches.
CLICK HERE for group standings and link to all remaining games
MBO Tall Blacks World Cup Qualifying
v Syria, September 13, Beirut, 5pm tip off local time
v Lebanon, September 17, Rotorua, 7pm tip off, tickets at www.ticketmaster.co.nz
Guards: Shea Ili, SKYCITY Breakers; Jarrod Kenny, Cairns Taipans; Ethan Rusbatch, Bay Hawks; Tai Webster, Galatasaray (Turkey);
Forwards: Reuben Te Rangi, Brisbane Bullets; Dion Prewster, Bay Hawks; Jordan Ngatai, SKYCITY Breakers; Isaac Fotu, Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany); Finn Delany, SKYCITY Breakers; Mika Vukona, Brisbane Bullets;
Centres: Rob Loe, Cairns Taipans; Tohi Smith-Milner, Melbourne United
Head Coach: Paul Henare
Assistant Coaches: Pero Cameron, Mike Fitchett
Physiotherapist: Anousith Bouaaphone
Massage Therapist: Shelley Moana Hiha
Manager: Andrew Dewhurst
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND TWO
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
- AWAY: 13 Sep 2018 vs Syria, Nouhad Nawfal Stadium, Zouk Mikael, Lebanon
- HOME: 17 Sep 2018 vs Lebanon, Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tip off 7pm
- HOME: 29 Nov 2018 vs Jordan, Horncastle Arena, Christchurch
- HOME: 2 Dec 2018 vs Syria, TSB Bank Arena, Wellington
- AWAY: 21 or 22 Feb 2019 vs Lebanon in Lebanon
- AWAY: 24 or 25 Feb 2019 vs Jordan in Jordan
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND ONE
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
- 23 Nov 2017 vs Korea at TSB Bank Arena, Wellington. Tall Blacks lost 80-86
- 26 Nov 2017 vs Hong Kong at Southourn Stadium, Hong Kong. Tall Blacks won 133-74
- 23 Feb 2018 vs China at Dongguan Basketball Centre, China. Tall Blacks won 82-73
- 26 Feb 2018 vs Korea at Jamsil Gymnasium, Seoul, South Korea. Tall Blacks won 93-84
- 28 Jun 2018 vs Hong Kong at Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tall Blacks won 124-65
- 1 Jul 2018 vs China vs Spark Arena, Auckland. Tall Blacks won 67-57
• Learn more about the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers (Asia Zone) here.
• Tall Blacks supporters gear can be purchased here.
• Follow the Tall Blacks’ social media channels: @TallBlacks Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Hashtags: #TuKaha #TallBlacks #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse
• Tall Blacks website
• Read about Tu Kaha and the Tall Blacks culture
• The games will be broadcast live by the Host Broadcaster, Maori Television.
Watch the Tu Kaha webisode series on the Tall Blacks here: