Coaching Staff Announced for National Junior Teams

Basketball New Zealand (BBNZ) is pleased to announce its coaching appointments for the upcoming Junior Tall Blacks and Junior Tall Ferns cycles.

The U19 New Zealand Men’s National Team, a.k.a. the Junior Tall Blacks, sees Matt Lacey appointed as Head Coach with Aaron Young and Doug Courtney as Assistant Coaches.

For the U19 New Zealand Women’s National Team, a.k.a. the Junior Tall Ferns, Josh Thompson has been selected as Head Coach with Bronwen Davidson and Ryan Dubbeldam in place as Assistant Coaches.

Coaches were appointed by a BBNZ selection panel consisting of Daryl Cartwright, Pero Cameron, Leanne Walker and Helen Williamson for the Men’s team, while Guy Molloy, Leanne Walker and Justine Reed were on the panel for the Women’s team.

Both sets of coaching staff will begin in their three-year U19 coaching cycle from January 2023, with the ultimate goal of competing at the U19 World Cup in 2025. Their first challenge is the FIBA U17 Oceania Championships in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea from 24-29 September 2023; finishing in the top two of this tournament ensures that New Zealand progresses to the FIBA U18 Asian Championships in 2024 – and beyond.

Matt Lacey is currently Head Coach and Director of Basketball at Rosmini College, a position he has held since 2017; leading the boy’s team to the National Championship both that year and in 2018. He was also head coach for the Harbour men’s U19 Men Harbour Basketball from 2018 to 2020, winning the U19 Nationals in 2019 – his efforts earning him BBNZ’s Keith Mair Award for Coach of the Year in 2018 and 2019.

Lacey was also part of Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa in its inaugural season, with Northern Kahu’s second-place finish helping him to win General Manager of the Year. He has also previously seen national team duty as the NZ U19 Men’s assistant coach from 2019-2021, which included travelling to the FIBA Oceania Championships in 2019.

Lacey says that it is a ‘massive privilege’ to lead this national team through to the pinnacle World Cup event in 2025.

“I think whether you’re a player or a coach, it’s always a goal to represent your country on the world stage – so to be able to lead the next cycle of young New Zealand talent is a huge opportunity,” says Lacey.

“It’s going to be great to see our national teams back on the world stage, after what’s been a disruptive last few years. Looking ahead we’ll be able to have some international size and athleticism going forward, which will help us to be more competitive against the bigger basketball powerhouses around the world.”

Josh Thompson is currently head coach for the Canterbury Under 23 Women’s team, which finished third at the National Championships (D-League) in 2022. He has also been assistant coach for the Canterbury Wildcats since 2017, winning the WBC National Championship in his first year and earning the Canterbury Basketball Coach of the Year award; an award he also won again in 2022. Thompson was also an assistant coach for the Mainland Pouākai in this year’s Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa, as well as being head coach for Lincoln University Women’s Premier Team.

In addition to this experience in the 5 on 5 setting, Thompson is currently the head coach for the NZ U18 3X3 team. He was head coach for the championship-winning Mainland Pouākai team in this year’s Schick 3×3 Cup, and has been head coach for the Lincoln University Men’s and Women’s 3×3 teams since 2020; the women’s team crowned champions in 2022.

Thompson is also excited for this chance with the U19 national team, and believes his diverse experience coaching in the women’s space helped him secure the role.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to coach a 5 on 5 women’s team on the national stage for the first time, after being in the 3×3 space for a long time,” says Thompson.

“It’s exciting to make this transition; my experience coaching in the women’s space in the Tauihi league this year helped, as has working with a lot of different age groups around the game. I’m going into this with the [initial] goal to getting this squad prepared for the Oceania Champs in September.”

Both Lacey and Thompson believe their U19 national sides play a key development role in the growth of talented Kiwi basketballers, whether their pathway leads to the NZ national team or professionally in New Zealand or overseas.

“If you looked over the past few cycles, you’ll find that most Tall Blacks have come through the Junior Tall Blacks team, it’s a massive pathway and stepping stone,” Lacey says.

“For some of these athletes, it’s the first time they’ve played international basketball and been exposed to the demands of playing against talented and well-resourced opponents. That will then be the catalyst for these players to go away and improve their game – and aim higher in the future.”

Thompson says: “Overall it’s about bridging the gap for our younger athletes, helping them to be prepared to walk into a Tall Ferns camp; because these are essentially the up-and-comers that will be looking to be Tall Ferns in the future. So my focus is on trying to develop them and preparing them for that bigger role – it’s going to be a great challenge for them and myself.”

Both coaches and their assistants will report for national team duty next month, with U17 Regional Selection Camps to be held in February: 11 Feb in Rangiora, 18 Feb in Wellington, 25 Feb in Tauranga and 26 Feb in Auckland. The U17 National Camp Window has also been earmarked for 10 – 17 April in Auckland, with more details to follow.