With the Tall Blacks out of the running for the second round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup, the squad turns their attention to another prize – an invite to the Olympic Qualifiers in June next year, and with that a chance for the Paris Olympics 2024.
New Zealand faces Mexico tonight at Manila’s MOA Arena, in the first of two qualification games to determine their final standing from 17-32 in the FIBA World Cup rankings. If they can win both tonight and on Saturday versus Egypt, they will stand a chance of finishing as one of the three highest Asia/Oceania ranked teams in this World Cup – which is awarded a spot in the 2024 Olympic Qualifier series.
With Australia already locked into a direct Olympic spot, that leaves New Zealand fighting with Japan – who has an identical 1-2 record in this World Cup – and others for those coveted final Asia/Oceania spots.
This will be the first time that the Tall Blacks have faced Mexico on the World Cup stage; in fact it is believed this is the first time these two countries have met in a basketball setting. Mexico have had a tough run at this edition of the World Cup, sporting an 0-3 record after losses to Montenegro, Lithuania and Egypt by an average of 26 points per game. Scoring and outside shooting has been issues for Mexico; they sit second-to-last in the World Cup rankings with 69.7 points per game, while shooting just 29% from beyond the arc.
Their squad is led by guard Pako Cruz (15.7ppg and 4.7 assists per game) and hulking centre Joshua Ibarra (14.7ppg and 4.7rpg), with Paul Stoll a sparkplug for Mexico with his 7ppg and 8 assists.
It will be a game of contrasting styles, with Mexico relying on a strong inside game (almost 37ppg inside the paint compared to New Zealand’s 27ppg), while New Zealand is the fourth-best outside shooting team in the competition at 42.3% on 11 triples made per game.
Shea Ili faces Mexico as the World Cup’s 15th-leading scorer at 18ppg, and fourth overall in assists per game with 7.7 – these numbers boosted by his impressive 27 points, 8 assist performance against Greece last night. Finn Delany comes in with averages of 12ppg and 8.7rpg – the latter 8th-best in the competition, while Reuben Te Rangi averages 13.7ppg while making an impressive 3 triples a game at a 50% clip. Jordan Ngatai has been even more efficient beyond the arc; his 66.7% conversion mark on two made threes a game is fourth-best in this World Cup.
New Zealand will hope to address two glaring issues at this tournament, turnover and fouls. Their 18 miscues per game currently leads the competition, while they are second in fouls (24 per game) behind Angola.
The Tall Blacks face Mexico in a FIBA World Cup Classification game at 8.45pm NZT on Thursday 31 August. Watch live & free on TVNZ Duke (Freeview Channel 6 or Sky Channel 23) or on TVNZ+ at www.tvnz.co.nz
Find out more about the FIBA World Cup at www.fiba.basketball/basketballworldcup/2023
Tall Blacks 1st Round Schedule – FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup
New Zealand vs USA – Sunday 27 August, 12.40am NZT (lost 72-99)
New Zealand vs Jordan – Monday 28 August, 8.45pm NZT (won 95-87)
New Zealand vs Greece – Thursday 31 August, 12.40am NZT (lost 74-83)
New Zealand vs Mexico (Classification game) – Thursday 31 August, 8.45pm NZT
New Zealand vs Egypt (Classification game) – Saturday 2 September, 8.45pm NZT
Tall Blacks Squad vs USA, FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup 2023
Finn Delany, NZ Breakers
Flynn Cameron, Melbourne United
Hyrum Harris, Hawkes Bay Hawks / Perth Wildcats
Isaac Fotu, Utsunomiya Brex
Izayah Le’Afa, Wellington Saints / NZ Breakers
Jordan Ngatai, Hawkes Bay Hawks
Reuben Te Rangi, Auckland Tuatara / S.E. Melbourne Phoenix
Shea Ili, Melbourne United
Taylor Britt, Canterbury Rams
Tohi Smith-Milner, Wellington Saints / Adelaide 36ers
Walter Brown, Canterbury Rams / Tasmania Jackjumpers
Yanni Wetzell, Alba Berlin
Mexico Squad vs New Zealand