The MBO Tall Blacks go back to work next week in the final qualifying window for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, with their final two games crucial to the team earning a high ranking for the tournament draw next month.
Both games are on the road as the Tall Blacks look to continue a nine-match winning run against Lebanon in Beirut on 22 February (8:30am 23 Feb NZT), and Jordan in Amman on 24 February (3:30am 25 Feb NZT).
The Tall Blacks winning run began after a somewhat inauspicious start to the campaign with a loss to South Korea in Wellington way back in November 2017. Since then, Paul Henare’s team has not missed a beat, something Henare is determined to continue in the Middle East next week.
“This has already been one heck of a journey and yes, we have already qualified, but the job is far from done,” said Henare.
“In order to give ourselves the best chance of success in China later this year, we need to position ourselves as strongly as we can ahead of the tournament draw, and that means as high a seeding as we can earn coming out of Asia.
“With the World Cup top of mind, we are targeting nothing short of two wins in two tough gyms on this trip, starting with Lebanon in Beirut, one of the craziest and noisiest atmospheres that anyone will ever encounter. We have to be ready to go.
“Regardless every game in a black singlet is a game to be taken seriously and we will always do everything in our power to win every time we step on the court. Our history, our culture and our record over the years demands that.”
Adding spice to the two games is that both Lebanon and Jordan are locked in a tight battle to qualify for the World Cup. With New Zealand and Korea already assured of qualifying from Group E, that leaves one automatic spot from the group. China currently sit third in Group E, but as hosts they are removed from the qualifying equation, moving Lebanon and Jordan up a place in the final standings.
Lebanon host New Zealand and then Korea in the final week of qualifying, while Jordan host China and then New Zealand in Amman. Both nations will be throwing everything at these two matches and with home court advantage, will enjoy the fanatical support in what will surely be hostile environments for the Tall Blacks to overcome.
Korea looms large for the New Zealanders if they should slip up. The Tall Blacks have nine wins from ten games, Korea eight and will be aiming up at two wins over the final window against Syria and Lebanon.
Adding to the importance of a strong seeding and the chance of a favourable draw at the World Cup proper, is the incentive of a spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The top finishing team from Oceania at the World Cup will earn an automatic Olympic spot, placing even more emphasis on that draw for both New Zealand and Australia.
Henare has resisted naming his final touring party for these final games, mainly out of respect to the Australian National League, with the final round of games played this weekend ahead of the finals.
FIBA rules around official FIBA windows are that club’s must release players to their respective national teams and Henare has made it clear he expects that to happen, but the threat of injuries this weekend mean the Tall Blacks mentor is taking a conservative approach to naming his roster.
“We can select anyone from our long list of 24 players submitted to FIBA, but the timing of this last window is a little problematic for our American College based players, and those playing closer to home in the NBL. Europe is less of an issue, but we will assess everyone after the weekend and have multiple plans in place depending on who makes the final cut for this window.”
Both games will be covered on Maori Television, as will the World Cup in August/September. The draw for the World Cup will be hosted in China in mid-March, at which time the Tall Blacks will find out their pool opponents and host city.
MBO Tall Blacks Long List of 24 (selection must come from this group of players for this FIBA WC Qualifying Window)
Tom Abercrombie, SKYCITY Breakers
Taylor Britt, The Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams
Finn Delany, SKYCITY Breakers
Isaac Fotu, Ratiopharm Ulm
Hyrum Harris, Taylor Hawks
Tyrell Harrison, Brisbane Bullets
Shea Ili, SKYCITY Breakers
Michael Karena, The Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams
Dom Kelman-Poto, SKYCITY Breakers Development
Jarrod Kenny, Cairns Taipans
Rob Loe, Cairns Taipans
Taine Murray, Rosmini College
Jordan Ngatai, SKYCITY Breakers
Kruz Perrott-Hunt, SKYCITY Breakers Development
Alex Pledger, Melbourne United
Dion Prewster, Taylor Hawks
Derone Raukawa, SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks
Ethan Rusbatch, Taylor Hawks
Tohi Smith-Milner, Melbourne United
Reuben Te Rangi, Brisbane Bullets
Tom Vodanovich, SKYCITY Breakers
Mika Vukona. Mike Pero Nelson Giants, Brisbane Bullets
Corey Webster. SKYCITY Breakers
Tai Webster. Galatasaray
Head Coach Paul Henare
Assistant Coaches Pero Cameron, Michael Fitchett
Physio Anousith Bouaaphone
Massage Therapist Shelley Moana Hiha
Doctor Hamish Osborne
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, Lebanon. Tall Blacks won 107-66
HOME: 17 Sep 2018 vs Lebanon, Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tall Blacks won 63-60
HOME: 29 Nov 2018 vs Jordan, Horncastle Arena, Christchurch. Tall Blacks won 95-69
HOME: 2 Dec 2018 vs Syria, TSB Bank Arena, Wellington. Tall Blacks won 97-74
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)
• 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 Tū Kaha and the Tall Blacks culture
• The games will be broadcast live by the Host Broadcaster, Maori Television
• Watch the Tū Kaha webisode series on the Tall Blacks.