As if anyone needed reminding, Lebanon’s FIBA World Cup qualifying overtime win over China in Beirut on the same night that the MBO Tall Blacks easily accounted for Syria put into context the quality of opposition the home side will face in Rotorua on Monday night, with home fans set to witness international basketball of the highest quality.
The two wins in Beirut move both teams to 6-win, 1-loss records, setting up a top of the table clash between the two Asia World Cup Qualifying Group E leaders at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre, tipping off at 7pm on Monday night.
Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare says local fans are in for something very different to the June clash with Hong Kong at the same venue.
“No disrespect to Hong Kong, but they are a fledgling team at this level of international basketball and the game was somewhat one-sided. Monday night will be anything but, Lebanon are a proven international team with a great pedigree and proud record, they will want to continue their winning streak and will be coming to Rotorua full of intent and confident of a result.
“We too are ready, the honour of pulling on the black singlet is never greater than at home in front of friends and whanau, the boys have put so much effort into getting us to where we are now but know we achieved nothing yet.
“Each win gets us a step closer to qualifying for the World Cup, but each win is vital to also give us as high a seeding as we can get coming out of Asia, that will play a crucial part in determining our pathway once at the tournament, if and when we qualify.
“But all of that can only be achieved with a short-term focus, one game at a time and our entire attention is on Lebanon on Monday. The boys have travelled well, we will go hard at training today and put the finishing touches on preparation and hope to run out in front of a large crowd on Monday night.
“This game is truly global and takes us all around the world, into some places that most New Zealanders never contemplate travelling to, let alone our other national sports teams. Whether throughout Asia, the Middle East or on tours and camps in Europe, we face constant challenges with travel, different language and cultures and passionate and one-eyed home crowds, and we love it.
“But this is our chance to play in front of our people, with the noise in our favour – we hope Rotorua and the surrounding area supports us and come out in big numbers on Monday night, it will make the world of difference to the boys after a long journey home.”
The entire roster is available for selection with everyone reporting fit and ready after the 38-hour journey back from Beirut that concluded at 3am this morning, a journey that included a well-planned overnight stay in Singapore, with two good meals and six hours sleep helping the players readjust to the time zone back home and recovering from the game against Syria.
Tickets are still available for the game and can be purchased via www.ticketmaster.co.nz or at the venue, with doors opening at 6pm.
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 (Tall Blacks won 107-66)
- 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.