Tall Blacks basketball descends on Christchurch this week, with a World Cup Qualifier against Jordan at Horncastle Arena set for this Thursday night.

Jordan arrived yesterday, having come from two practice games against the Philippines. The Tall Blacks squad was assembled last night with the arrival of the Breakers players flying in at midnight from their Perth fixture.

It has been 14 years since the Tall Blacks last played in Christchurch. That game featured Paul Henare and Pero Cameron leading from the front, as the TBs beat Australia 80 to 75. Now the pair are back with the team, this time as coaches, and their clash against Jordan may be a tougher test.

This Tall Blacks squad features fresh faces. A number of the longlist have been brought in to cover the absence of names like Fotu, Webster and Delany.  Head Coach Paul Henare will know this Jordan team could be a big threat to the Tall Blacks’ plan to qualify during this penultimate FIBA World Cup Qualifying window.

“We do know they’re bringing what we believe is one of their most talented sides. We played them at the Asia Cup last year. They’ve added a few pieces around them since then. They have got some that are playing in high-level leagues in Europe, there’s the likes like Zaid Abbasand and  Mousa Alawadi, so really talented guys. They’ve also brought in Justin Dentmon, a naturalized an American player who has a really big reputation as a flat-out scorer, so they’re going to be a handful,” says Henare.

A win for the Tall Blacks will see New Zealand one step closer to the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. An additional win against Syria in Wellington on Sunday 2 December would cement it, but Jordan is Henare’s sole focus right now.

Jordan is desperate for more victories to book a World Cup place. They sit in fourth spot in Pool E behind New Zealand (7-1), Lebanon (6-2) and Korea (6-2). However with home and away encounters against the Tall Blacks to come, plus a home fixture against China (4-4) and a visit to Korea, they are very much in the hunt for a top three spot.

In October, Jordan brought in a new Head Coach and gave him that task. Joseph Stiebing says they want this game, and it will be huge for them and their World Cup dream.

“For us it’s very important. We’re in fourth place in now, we’re five [wins] and three [losses], so every win we can get will help our seeding for the World Cup. We’re fighting for our lives right now unlike New Zealand, but I know every game is important for them also. I think this game is going to be a battle between two teams who play very hard and it will be a good show on Thursday,” said Stiebing at the airport yesterday.

Although saying their “in fourth place” in Group E is deceptive. Jordan very nearly went unbeaten in the First Round of the Asian Qualifiers. They would have if Zaid Abbas, one of the star players in their team, made a free-throw in the final seconds against Lebanon. Instead he missed and Jordan lost by a single point. It was a rare mistake by the 34 year-old Abbas. He is a veteran of Jordan’s successful 2009-2010 campaigns, and he brings a fearless game and bold leadership that will fuel Jordan’s belief.

Joining those veteran ranks is Mahmoud Abdeen and Mousa Alawadi. Both are streaky shooters averaging over 40% from beyond the three-point arc during the current campaign. If this pair find their range in Christchurch on Thursday night, the Tall Blacks could be caught short.

With three players on the list over two metres, the Tall Blacks are also beaten on size. The 2.11m Jordanian centre, Mohammad Hussein (8.4ppg/7.3rpg), is the Jordanian rim protector and certain to match up well with Rob Loe and the other Tall Blacks big men.Right now, Jordan are backed into a corner and their World Cup Qualification is at serious risk. That threat may be their biggest asset in this match as they will see this game as a must-win. They do have a new coach, a new focus and they have just come from a win against the Philippines in a practice scrimmage. This somewhat new looking Tall Blacks team will need to be on their guard and well-prepared if they are to claim victory.

If the Tall Blacks win the next two games, they will qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.

Tickets for the Tall Blacks v Jordan game in Christchurch can be purchased at www.Ticketek.co.nz.

Tickets for the Tall Blacks v Syria game in Wellington can be purchased at www.Ticketmaster.co.nz.

MBO Tall Blacks. FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, Window Five Round Two:

• Tom Abercrombie. SKYCITY Breakers
• Tyrell Harrison. Brisbane Bullets
• Shea Ili. Cigna Saints, SKYCITY Breakers
• Jarrod Kenny. Taylor Hawks, Cairns Taipans
• Rob Loe. Cairns Taipans
• Jordan Ngatai. Cigna Saints, SKYCITY Breakers
• Kruz Perrott-Hunt. Rosmini College, SKYCITY Breakers Development
• Alex Pledger. SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks, Melbourne United
• Derone Raukawa. SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks
• Ethan Rusbatch. Taylor Hawks
• Tohi Smith-Milner. Mike Pero Nelson Giants, Melbourne United
• Reuben Te Rangi. SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks, Brisbane Bullets
• Tom Vodanovich. SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks, SKYCITY Breakers Development
• Mika Vukona. Mike Pero Nelson Giants, Brisbane Bullets

Jordan team to face Tall Blacks in Christchurch:

• Zaid Abbas, Power Forward, 203cm
• Mah’d Abdeen, Point Guard, 190cm
• Amin Abu Hawwas, Shooting Guard, 188cm
• Yousef Abu Wazaneh, Power Forward, 201cm
• Mousa Alawadi, Shooting Guard, 187cm
• Jordan Al Dasuqi, Point Guard, 188cm
• Ahmad Al-Hamarsheh, Small Forward, 197cm
• Justin Dentmon, Shooting Guard, 183cm
• Sinan Eid, Point Guard, 185cm
• Mohammad Hassouneh, Small Forward, 195cm
• Mohammad Hussein, Center, 208cm
• Malek Kanaan, Point Guard, 176cm
• Ahmad Obeid Power, Forward, 199cm

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. Tall Blacks won 63-60
• 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