Ahead of the next FIBA World Cup Qualifying window this coming November and December, the bulk of the Tall Blacks are playing in the Australian National Basketball League that officially tips-off tonight.
However two of Paul Henare’s key players are plying their trade in Europe. Isaac Fotu has returned to Germany for a second season with Ratiopharm Ulm
. And Tai Webster has moved to Turkey where he has joined the famous Galatasaray
Coincidentally the two clubs have been drawn against each other in Pool A of the EuroCup, a 24-team competition that is played midweek in between national club competition commitments.
Galatasaray and Ulm will meet twice in pool play. The first meeting was last night with Ulm prevailing 103-92 in a double overtime thriller. Ulm looked to be heading for a home defeat when they trailed 66-52 at three-quarter time but a strong fourth quarter saw them tie the scores at 78 points apiece in regulation time. The two teams shared 14 points in the first extra period before Ulm pulled away in the second additional period. Fotu scored 19 points and added 8 rebounds for Ulm, while Webster had a double-double of 17 points and 10 assists for Galatasaray. Both teams have a one win/one loss record after two rounds of the EuroCup. The two teams will meet again in Istanbul on 14 November.
Back in New Zealand, the SKYCITY Breakers have the privilege of opening the Australian NBL (ANBL) season with a home tie against Brisbane Bullets.
The Breakers has a quintet of Tall Blacks on their roster: Tom Abercrombie, Finn Delany, Shea Ili, Jordan Ngatai and Corey Webster. The Breakers enter their 16th season in the League with Abercrombie taking on the captaincy under new Head Coach Kevin Braswell.
Opposing the Breakers at Spark Arena will be Reuben Te Rangi and Mika Vukona. Vukona, the Tall Blacks Captain, has made more appearances in the ANBL than any other active player (421 games). 354 of those games were in Breakers colours and it’s perhaps fitting that his first outing for Brisbane is against the Breakers – the club he helped to win four ANBL titles.
Also departed from last season’s Breakers lineup are centres Rob Loe and Alex Pledger.
Pledger has crossed the Tasman to join defending champions Melbourne United that also have Tohi Smith-Milner on its books.
After a couple of seasons with the Breakers Rob Loe has moved to Cairns and linked up with Jarrod Kenny at the Taipans. Kenny has headed to Queensland after winning two ANBL titles in his three years with the Perth Wildcats.
You can keep up with the news on all eleven Tall Blacks playing in the ANBL via: http://www.nbl.com.au/ and its social media platforms @NBL on Twitter and Facebook.
The ANBL regular season concludes in February with play-offs featuring the top four teams played during March.
During the season, the players in the Tall Blacks squad can be released from their clubs to play for New Zealand. The Tall Blacks have gone unbeaten in their last seven World Cup Qualifying games and are topping Pool E with two Windows remaining. The games in November and December will be the last chance for Kiwis to see the Tall Blacks play a FIBA Qualifier on home soil, before the World Cup in China next year.
The next game will be against Jordan on 29 November at Horncastle Arena (Tickets on sale from 15 October at www.Ticketek.co.nz
). They then head to Wellington to take on Syria at TSB Bank Arena, Wellington (Tickets on sale from 15 October at www.Ticketmaster.co.nz
). Go to www.TallBlacks.basketball
for more information.