Paul Henare has today named his first roster as head coach of the national programme, with 14 players named to travel to Europe for games against Great Britain, Croatia and Slovenia before that number is further reduced to 12 for the Oceania Series against Australia in August, with the winner booking a place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Henare and assistant coaches Pero Cameron, Ross McMains and Judd Flavell have named their touring party of 14 after an intensive 3 days of trials in Auckland, with players put through their paces – on and off court.
Henare says the talent coming through the game is heartening.
“One of the stand out features of the past few days has been the quality of the young players coming through and putting pressure on some of the established Tall Blacks. We have an exciting generation of talent emerging, one that combined with some of our leaders makes for an exciting group to work with. Those that have missed out all have bright futures and will be all the better for their time with us over the past few days, but we could only name 14.”
Those leaders include Lindsay Tait (Saints), Mika Vukona, Tom Abercrombie, Corey Webster (all SKYCITY Breakers), Everard Bartlett (Ballarat Mjners) and Jarrod Kenny (Bay Hawks).
Henare will rely heavily on that core group and is delighted that Tait is available to tour after taking some time out post the Bartercard NBL finals weekend.
“Lindsay and I have spoken numerous times this week, he needed some space to freshen up after a long campaign with the Saints and was unsure as to his availability. A player like Lindsay with 12 years on the national team has earned the right to that time away but I am thrilled to say he is ready to go and fully committed to this programme and the aim of defeating Australia next month, his experience in this group is vital alongside the likes of Mika, Tom, JK and Corey.”
The youngsters to make the cut after the trials include 17 year old Tai Wynyard (SuperCity Rangers/SKYCITY Breakers) who fills one of the big spots alongside Rob Loe – who at 23 almost assumes a senior role in this team.
First time Tall Blacks on the list include Dion Prewster who is rewarded for a strong season with the Saints and point guard Shea Ili who likewise impressed as he played an important role with the Southland Sharks this season, Ili is joined in the Tall Blacks by fellow Sharks and SKYCITY Breaker Duane Bailey.
Henare says there is still room for change with no guarantees that the final 12 will come exclusively from this group.
“This is a long campaign, we must be prepared to lose players to injury but if we do, I am confident we have the depth in most positions to cope. We continue to talk with Steve (Adams) about his involvement and clearly he is a player we would love to have in our team so he may yet come in ahead of the games against Aussie.
“Our goal is very clear, the games on the way are all about preparing for Aussie in August. We will be underdogs, they will have a team stacked with NBA talent and are world ranked but we will bring our Kiwi culture and Tall Black pride every time we play, we will back ourselves against anyone in the world, that has always been the attitude in this team and you can be sure it will continue under my watch. These boys have immense pride in themselves, their families and the basketball community, they know what it means to pull on the black singlet.”
TALL BLACKS TO TOUR EUROPE
Thomas Abercrombie, SKYCITY Breakers, Forward, 198cm, 28years; Duane Bailey, Southland Sharks, Forward, 199, 23; Everard Bartlett, Ballarat Miners (AUS), Guard, 193, 29; Isaac Fotu, La Bruixa d’Or Manresa (ESP), Forward, 203, 21; Leon Henry, Wellington Saints, Forward, 202, 29; Shea Ili, Southland Sharks, Guard, 183, 23; Jarrod Kenny, Hawke’s Bay Hawks, Guard, 186, 29; Robert Loe, KAOD (GRE), Centre, 211, 23; Dion Prewster, Wellington Saints, Guard, 195, 25; Lindsay Tait, Wellington Saints, Guard, 190, 33; Reuben Te Rangi, SuperCity Rangers / SKYCITY Breakers, Forward, 195, 20; Mika Vukona, Nelson Giants / SKYCITY Breakers, Forward, 198, 33; Corey Webster, SKYCITY Breakers, Guard, 188, 26; Tai Wynyard, SuperCity Rangers / SKYCITY Breakers, Forward, 204, 17;
Tall Blacks 2015 Schedule
11-16 July – Preparation camp in Napier, New Zealand
19 July – Depart for Europe
25 July – v Great Britain, Copperbox, London
29 July – v Croatia
30 July – v Slovenia
3-8 August – Stankovic Cup, China, Mexico, Venezuela, venue China
11-13 August – Training camp in Auckland
15 August – FIBA Oceania Series v Australia, Melbourne, Rod Laver Arena
18 August – FIBA Oceania Series, v Australia, Wellington