UPDATE: THE 3×3 OQT EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED. MORE HERE.
Basketball New Zealand has named the four players who will represent New Zealand in the FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Bengaluru, India, 18-22 March.
Samuel Aruwa, Alonzo Burton, Hyrum Harris and Taane Samuel will compete under the guidance of New Zealand 3×3 Head Coach Piet Van Hasselt. The team must finish within the top three to qualify for the Olympics.
Three of the team have already played 3×3 for New Zealand at senior or Under 23 levels, and all four played in the Sal’s NBL last year.
Hyrum Harris becomes the first concurrent double 3×3 and 5-on-5 senior international, having been a part of the Tall Blacks team that defeated Australia last month. He is coming off his debut season in the Australian NBL with the Illawarra Hawks and brings plenty of versatility.
Alonzo Burton was a member of the 3×3 2017 Asia Cup side that won the silver medal and has played for the New Zealand Select five-on-five team. He is set to join Harris at the Southland Sharks this year and is one of New Zealand’s premier shooters in the NBL in recent years.
Taane Samuel has recently signed with his hometown Wellington Saints for the NBL and turned heads with his play at the 3×3 U23 World Cup from the post and outside last year.
Samuel Aruwa brings an x-factor and has been active on the 3×3 scene. He also graduates from the U23 World Cup New Zealand team alongside Taane Samuel.
Coach Van Hasselt says the team have received plenty of support from the players’ NBL sides to ensure they are available to represent NZ in this world event. Now the biggest challenge they face is a tough Pool.
“All four countries in our pool pose challenges for us. We have been able to analyse the teams and individuals with plenty of 3×3 coverage available online. USA are the defending World Champions from 2019 and have named a strong team as expected. Lithuania have vast experience with all four team members suiting up for Sakiai on the 3×3 World Tour. South Korea will play up-tempo and shoot lots from the outside. Belgium are a bit more unknown, but their 5-on-5 side just upset Lithuania in a FIBA Eurobasket qualifying match, 86-65. We are very focused on our preparation for Lithuania and Belgium on our first day of games in Bengaluru,” says Van Hasselt.
With 20 teams battling for one of three Olympic qualifying sports, Van Hasselt and his team will need all the preparation time they can get. But this is another area of basketball without the luxury of high-performance funding, so Van Hasselt will be taking a Tall Blacks approach and do a lot with a little.
“The team have been working hard on their skills and fitness. We will assemble on 12 March for a four-day preparation camp and some top-quality games to help us finalise our strategies, processes and protocols. Plus give us the opportunity to gel and develop together. We will then travel to India on the 17th for our first games on the 19th.”
Head of High Performance at Basketball New Zealand, Leonard King, says this group is the beginning of a wider 3×3 strategy, with the hope of creating specialist 3×3 players that will target the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
“While securing a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is the goal, Basketball New Zealand has taken a long term approach. With these selections, we are sowing the seeds that will be reaped down the line at future competitions and tournaments. Each of these players have committed to a long-term plan of building towards to the 2022 Commonwealth games. A big part of that is investing in a group of eight to ten athletes who have committed to representing New Zealand at the 3×3 version of the sport, so we can gain some consistency and cohesion within the program,” says King.
The Olympic event is part of basketball history in the making. FIBA have done a phenomenal job pushing the 3×3 game and managed to get the game from the streets to the Olympics in under a decade. This first edition of the event in Tokyo will be a special occasion with only eight men’s and eight women’s teams being represented.
Four countries have already qualified the Olympics: Serbia, Russia, China and Japan. That leaves four remaining spots. The top three of the India-hosted OQT will qualify. The last spot will be awarded at the Universality Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which will feature six other teams and take place in Budapest, Hungary in April 2020.
Official tournament website: http://www.fiba.basketball/olympics/3×3/2020/OQT