The MBO Tall Blacks have settled quickly into Rotorua ahead of Thursday night’s FIBA World Cup Qualifier against Hong Kong, with the pace and urgency of training going up a notch from the camp in Wellington last week.
Point guard Shea Ili has joined the team after missing the Wellington camp due to his NBA mini-camp in Dallas and likes what he sees from the group.
“It is good to be back with the boys, some I haven’t seen in a while. It is always great to pull on that black jersey and just hang out with the group, it is pretty cool.
“Last week has given me a boost in confidence, it was a difficult trip to fly over and come back all in the space of a few days, but I am feeling great about coming back into the Tall Blacks environment and help the boys get a couple of dubs.”
Ili is accepting of his role as one of the leaders and more experienced players in the team.
“The coaches have asked me to be a leader with the boys, I am still working on that, but I am ready to help out when I can and take the pressure off the boys, bring them in when we need to get back on track.”
Head Coach Paul Henare says every session is vital as the team looks to peak on Thursday night, in the first of two games in this World Cup Qualifying window.
“Every minute together is vital, last week we saw a mix of preparing for this window, but also players competing for a place on the roster. Now our complete focus is on that preparation and making sure we are ready for Hong Kong and put on a good show for the fans in Rotorua.
“What we have learned from previous windows is the need to be up to speed quickly, to use every moment of every day in preparation. The players work is done on the practice court, but also in video sessions, in recovery sessions and in conversation with the coaches and other players. We really have to put ourselves in a bit of a bubble and push everything else aside for these seven days.”
Henare highlighted the need for the team to not get ahead of themselves coming into the window, saying the team is solely focused on playing Hong Kong on Thursday night and won’t broker any chat about the second game in the window against China in Auckland on Sunday afternoon.
“We are not looking any further ahead than Thursday night, one game at a time, Hong Kong have our full attention.”
Everyone on the roster is at or near full fitness, with a couple of minor niggles not expected to effect team selection for the game against Hong Kong, with 12 of the current 14 strong roster able to suit up. That decision won’t be made until much closer to game time as Henare ponders his options.
Tickets for the game on Thursday night are still available via Ticketmaster, with fans promised a great and rare chance to see the MBO Tall Blacks in action in New Zealand, let alone outside of the main centres.
Tall Blacks roster to play Hong Kong and China, June/July 2018
Guards: Shea Ili, NZ Breakers; Jarrod Kenny, Bay Hawks/Cairns Taipans; Dion Prewster, Bay Hawks; Isaac Letoa, Dartmouth University (USA); Jordan Ngatai, Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers; Kruz Perrott-Hunt, Rosmini College
Forwards: Tom Abercrombie, NZ Breakers; Mika Vukona, Nelson Giants/Brisbane Bullets; Finn Delany, Nelson Giants/NZ Breakers; Tohi Smith-Milner, Nelson Giants/Melbourne United; Reuben Te Rangi, Southland Sharks/Brisbane Bullets; Isaac Fotu, Ratiopharm Ulm (GER)
Centres: Jack Salt, University of Virginia (USA); Rob Loe, Cairns Taipans;
Head Coach: Paul Henare
Assistant Coaches: Pero Cameron, Ross McMains, Michael Fitchett
Physiotherapist: Anousith Bouaaphone
Massage Therapist: Shelley Moana Hiha
Manager: Andrew Dewhurst
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND ONE
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
23 Nov 2017 vs Korea at TSB Bank Arena, Wellington. Result: Tall Blacks lost 80-86
26 Nov 2017 vs Hong Kong at Southourn Stadium, Hong Kong. Result: Tall Blacks won 133-74
23 Feb 2018 vs China at Dongguan Basketball Centre, China. Result: Tall Blacks won 82-73
26 Feb 2018 vs Korea at Jamsil Gymnasium, Seoul, South Korea. Result: Tall Blacks won 93-84
28 Jun 2018 vs Hong Kong at Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tip off at 7pm. TICKETS
1 Jul 2018 vs China vs Spark Arena, Auckland. Tip off at 3pm. TICKETS
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND TWO
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
· 13 Sep 2018 TBA (Pool C crossover) AWAY
· 17 Sep 2018 TBA (Pool C crossover) HOME
· 29 Nov 2018 TBA (Pool C crossover) HOME
· 2 Dec 2018 TBA (Pool C crossover) HOME
· 22 Feb 2019 TBA (Pool C crossover) AWAY
· 25 Feb 2019 TBA (Pool C crossover) AWAY
• 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