MBO (pronounced: maybo) New Zealand Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare has confirmed the final twelve players for the upcoming FIBA World Cup Qualifying games in China and Korea, and it includes two sets of brothers on the same team.
Fans are used to the sight of Corey and Tai Webster suiting up together in national colours, but this is a first for Isaac Fotu and his younger 18 year-old brother Dan. The Fotu’s might up the rivalry on tour too, as they are both Rangitoto College boys, while the Webster’s are former Westlakers. The two schools are fierce basketball rivals, so there is sure to be some healthy banter between the four old boys.
Surprisingly, this is the first time the Fotu brothers have played together in a team and Dan is thrilled at the opportunity.
“I got the call from Pauli about four days ago. I was at a promotion with the Breakers. When I saw who it was I took a minute to answer it and got the news, the good news.
“I have played for age-group teams and the Junior Tall Blacks and that is really good, but the Tall Blacks is top dog, so getting the call was a dream come true.”
“Making the team with Isaac makes it even more special, this has never happened, we have never been on the same team before. It is going to be good for sure. Way back Isaac and Gabriella (sister) used to be dominant, but now I have grown I am more dominant, so I think I can beat him one on one from now on.
Henare says it is a balanced group, with the core of the team who played so well at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup ready to step up again and assume more responsibility under the captaincy of Reuben Te Rangi.
“I am excited about this group and what they can bring to the national team. We have seen so many of them grow so much over the past couple of years and for some it is now time to further fulfill their potential, this time on the international stage.
“This is about opportunities. Look at someone like Jordan (Ngatai), who is coming off a career best performance in the NBL over the weekend. That and the confidence gained from the Asia Cup will stand him in good stead against two very good international sides. This is a huge test for a young group, but one I am excited about.
“This is a great chance to expose someone like Dan to Tall Blacks basketball and our culture. It’s an important learning experience for those younger players on the team.”
Young Fotu is already soaking up everything he can, with some lessons from his older brother and sister putting him in good stead.
“Both Isaac and Gabriella have taught me to work hard for what you want, that nothing comes easily, you have to go and get it yourself. Isaac will push me in this opportunity, he will help make me a better player and compete against guys in my position to get a spot on the team.
“These boys are a good set of boys, and the Tall Black culture is really good. It is something I want to be a part of in the future for sure.”
With Isaac Fotu’s arrival from Stuttgart yesterday, the whole team is now preparing in Dongguan for their game against China on 23 February. They will then travel to Seoul to take on South Korea on 26 February as they continue towards the ultimate goal – a place at the 2019 FIBA World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Tall Blacks Roster to play China and Korea, February 2018
Point guards: Shea Ili (SKYCITY Breakers), Jarrod Kenny (Perth Wildcats), Tai Webster (Fraport Skyliners)
Shooting guards: Reuben Te Rangi (Brisbane Bullets), Corey Webster (Ironi Nahariya),
Small forwards: Jordan Ngatai (SKYCITY Breakers), Finn Delany (SKYCITY Breakers), Dan Fotu (SKYCITY Breakers)
Power forwards: Isaac Fotu (Ratiopharm Ulm), Tohi Milner-Smith (Melbourne United)
Centres: Rob Loe (SKYCITY Breakers), Alex Pledger (SKYCITY Breakers)
Head Coach: Paul Henare
Assistant Coaches: Pero Cameron, Michael Fitchett
Physiotherapist: Anousith Bouaaphone
Massage Therapist: Shelley Hiha
Manager: Andrew Dewhurst
(Tom Abercrombie was not considered due to the pending arrival of his second child).
• 24 February, 12:30am NZT: China v MBO Tall Blacks. Livestreamed on maoritelevision.com and delayed broadcast on Maori TV at 1pm, 24 Feb.
• 26 February, 11:30pm NZT: Korea V MBO Tall Blacks. Livestreamed on moaritelevision.com and broadcast on Maori TV 2330-0130.
Tickets for the home games – MBO Tall Blacks vs Hong Kong in Rotorua on 28 June and vs China in Auckland on 1 July – will go on sale in April or early May.
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. (NZT: 12:30am 24 Feb).
• 26 February v South Korea, Jamsil Arena, Seoul. (NZT: 11:30pm).
• 28 June v Hong Kong, Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. 7pm.
• 1 July v China, Spark Arena, Auckland. 3:30pm.
• Read the longlist of 24 players named last October.
• 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.