U17 Men’s head coach Matt Lacey has today named his Junior Tall Blacks squad for the upcoming FIBA U17 Men’s Oceania Championship – to be contested in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea from 2–7 October 2023.
The squad includes: William Blight, Nicholas Book, Ezrah Eagle, Julius Halaifonua, Mahnaya Heke, Carter Hopoi, Ryan Hunt, Tamatoa Isaac, Xanda Marsters, Kahuranaki Treacher, Manaia-Ariki Wharepapa and Joshua Wyllie.
In addition, the following non-travelling Reserves have been named as Jonty Bond, Christopher Christof, Adam Barton, Hadi Alshami, Kayden Bracey and Bartosz Jackowski. In the event of one of the squad of 12 being unable to travel, a Reserve will be named in their place.
This is the first tournament of the Junior Tall Blacks age group cycle within FIBA’s Oceania zone, encompassing a three year period that culminates in the U19 World Cup in 2025. If the U17 Men’s team can finish in the top two of the FIBA U17 Men’s Oceania Championship in October – something they’ve been able to achieve in all eight previous editions of the tournament dating back to 2002 – they’ll earn a ticket to the FIBA U18 Asian Championships in 2024.
In turn, a top four finish at the Asian Champs ensures that the Junior Tall Blacks can compete in the FIBA U19 World Cup in 2025, which New Zealand has only qualified for once in the past (2019 in Greece).
Coach Lacey has selected his squad of 12 following the U17 national camp at Auckland’s Saint Kentigern College back in April, where 24 male athletes showcased their skills in the hopes of being selected to represent New Zealand. The U17 Aon Nationals – held in Wellington in July this year – also impacted on this final squad, with a trio of players selected in Isaac, Heke and Hopoi after they each made the U17 Nationals Tournament team.
Five of these athletes selected for the squad of 12 – Halaifonua, Hopoi, Hunt, Isaac and Treacher – also made headlines earlier this year when they were selected for the Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp in Abu Dhabi, with NBA Academy player Halaifonua also chosen for the NBA Academy Games in Atlanta in July.
“It was really good to get back into the National Camp setup, the first for a lot of our athletes, and so after pairing that four-day camp with the recent U17 Nationals, we feel that as a coaching staff we’ve selected a really balanced squad,” says Lacey.
“We have a few international-based athletes as well, it’s exciting for them to come home and represent their country while they’re pursuing their basketball goals overseas. Overall we’re really looking forward to this tournament, we know it’s going to be a challenge given our short preparation but I’m happy with our squad makeup – we’ll be doing a lot of learning on the fly which is all part of an international campaign.
“It’ll be exciting to play against Australia and our other Pacific neighbours and this will be our first time playing as a team against any international competition. So in year one I’ll be looking to lay some foundations and develop our team style of play; setting us up to compete on the international stage, coming together and building connections and familiarity across this playing group.”
With this being the first FIBA U17 Men’s Oceania Championship held since 2019 due to Covid disrupting the planned 2021 event, Lacey says it has been difficult to gauge the talent of the opposing teams. He says that New Zealand can neither afford to take this opportunity to play for their country for granted, or take any opponent lightly.
“One of our challenges when we play international basketball is that we’re often seen as the underdog, but in the Oceania context that’s not the case at all. So for our team it’s about focussing on things we can control, going about our preparation and executing the system and the style we want to play – focussing on that rather than circumstances we can’t control.
“It’s always hard to know what some of the other teams will bring, but in recent years the likes of Samoa have risen in talent – we’ve seen so many up-and-coming players in these teams even in Auckland, so it’s something we can’t take for granted. We can’t just assume we’re going to finish top 2; we’ve got to hit the ground running and be at our best every game.”
“It’s been great to see some of our other junior national teams hit the world stage recently, it’s definitely not something we can take for granted. Recent years have shown that just how important it is to represent your country when you’re given the opportunity as it’s never a given, so we’ve got to do our families proud and made sure we put on that black jersey with a ton of pride each time.”
The Junior Tall Blacks travel to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in early October for the FIBA U17 Men’s Oceania Championship from 2–7 October. All games will be shown on www.youtube.com/fiba and a tournament draw will be announced closer to the date.
NZ U17 Men’s Squad For U17 Oceania Champs 2023
- William Blight, Nelson Basketball
- Nicholas Book, Canterbury Basketball
- Ezrah Eagle, Basketball Hawkes Bay
- Julius Halaifonua, NBA Academy/ Harbour Basketball
- Mahnaya Heke, Waikato Basketball Association
- Carter Hopoi, Tauranga City Basketball
- Ryan Hunt, Waitakere
- Tamatoa Isaac, Canterbury Basketball
- Xanda Marsters, Rotorua Basketball Association
- Kahuranaki Treacher, Team Takeover National
- Manaia-Ariki Wharepapa, Canterbury Basketball
- Joshua Wyllie, Harbour Basketball
NZ U17 Men’s Squad – Non-traveling Reserves
- Jonty Bond, Nelson Basketball
- Christopher Christof, Basketball Otago
- Adam Barton, Nelson Basketball
- Hadi Alshami, Harbour Basketball
- Kaden Bracey, Nelson Basketball
- Bartosz Jackowski, Harbour Basketball
Head Coach – Matt Lacey
Assistant Coach – Doug Courtney
Assistant Coach – Josiah Maama
Team Manager – Brent Lay
Physiotherapist – Joe Gimm
Team Doctor – Dr Logan Poloai