As the New Zealand 3×3 National Teams train in Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games – which starts Friday – they know that a medal is within their grasp.
This is the first time that 3×3 basketball has been on the Games programme, although the five-aside version has featured twice before; at the Melbourne Games in 2006 and again in the 2018 Gold Coast Games. 3×3 basketball also featured for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics last year, as its popularity continues to skyrocket around the world.
The Kiwi men’s and women’s teams – known as the 3×3 Tall Blacks and 3×3 Tall Ferns respectively – qualified for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games through an official FIBA points-based system, whereby the country’s top 50 players contribute points towards the national ranking with every win earned in a FIBA-approved competition, including the Schick 3×3 Cup, Youthtown 3×3 Quest Tour and Seven Stars Invitational.
BBNZ Chief Executive, Dillon Boucher says they’re thrilled to be involved in the 3×3 discipline’s Commonwealth Games debut.
“3×3 is an extremely popular and fast-growing sport, both in New Zealand and around the world – as evidenced by its inclusion in this Commonwealth Games,” says Boucher.
“It’s something that BBNZ has put increased focus and resource into over the past several years, both via its community offerings, the upcoming 3×3 Cup and other FIBA events. I’m excited to see what our 3×3 athletes can do at these Games.”
3×3 Tall Ferns
For the 3×3 Tall Ferns, the squad that competed at the FIBA 3×3 World Cup – made up of Jillian Harmon, Kalani Purcell, Tiarna Clarke and Ella Fotu – returns in its entirety. Both Harmon and Fotu also featured in the recent FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup that competed in Singapore.
As one of eight women’s teams competing at the Commonwealth Games, the 3×3 Tall Ferns have been placed into one of two pools – theirs including Canada, England and the British Virgin Islands, with the squad playing each of these teams once during pool play.
3×3 Tall Ferns head coach, Justine Reed says that the squad and staff have been busy focusing on their Commonwealth Games preparation over the last few months.
“We’ve had the opportunity to play against some 3×3 powerhouses at both the World and Asia Cups in preparation for this event, so we feel we’re well prepared,” says Reed.
“We’re looking to ‘peak’ at this event and are aiming for a podium finish; yes it’s going to be tough against some of the elite teams, but I truly believe that these girls are ready.
“We’ve also been fortunate that everyone is healthy, and so our focus in the lead up to the Games is on fine-tuning our plays and continuing to work on our team chemistry and combos. It’s really exciting and I know that the girls are looking forward to the start of competition.”
The 3×3 Tall Fern’s first game will be on Sunday 31 July @ 10.35am NZT, when they face host nation England.
3×3 Tall Blacks
For the 3×3 Tall Blacks, Richie Rodger steps in as a late replacement for Nikau McCullough – who was unable to travel to Birmingham due to a positive Covid test. Richie joins FIBA 3×3 World Cup athletes Tai Wynyard, Jayden Bezzant and Dom Kelman-Poto, who were also part of the silver medal-winning team at the recent FIBA Asia Cup.
As one of eight men’s teams at these Games, the 3×3 Tall Blacks have been placed into a pool with Australia, England and Trinidad & Tobago, and will play each of these teams once during pool play.
3×3 Tall Blacks head coach, Piet van Hasselt says that the team is ‘ecstatic’ about representing New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games.
“We are living the dream being able to be a part of the NZ Team and are focussed and ready to put on a show on the world stage; I love how these men encourage and bring out the best in each other in the true Kiwi sporting way,” says van Hasselt.
Van Hasselt says that the loss of McCullough was a blow to the team – both on and off the court – but are fortunate to be able to replace him with a player of Rodger’s calibre.
“We are all really missing Nikau, he is the heart and soul of the programme and he kept the team focussed on learning at each and every opportunity we were together. He lifts up others to succeed and earned mine and his teammates’ confidence and trust very early on.
“He has been a cornerstone of our programme since the February Selection Camp and been on all of our successful overseas tours. We wish him well for his COVID recovery and are thinking about him – we can’t wait to have him back in a 3×3 Tall Blacks singlet soon.
“Richie on the other hand, was a stand-out performer at both of our selection camps and is well respected for the way he carries himself on and off court and how hard he plays. Ever the consummate professional, Richie answered the call at the 11th hour and made himself available immediately as Nikau’s replacement.
“He’s is a strong shooter and defender and fits well into our team – we’re fortunate to have him debut with us in Birmingham.”
The 3×3 Tall Black’s first game will be on Sunday 31 July @ 10.10am NZT, when they face host nation England.
The 3×3 Tall Ferns and 3×3 Tall Blacks are each set to compete in a trio of pool games at the Commonwealth Games from 30-31 July (UK time), with the winner of each pool moving directly to the semi-final round, while second and third placed teams move into the quarter-finals to fight for a semi-final slot.
These rounds will be followed with the classification and bronze medal matches on 2 August in the afternoon session and the gold medal matches taking place in the evening session of the same day.
All games will be played at a temporary arena, constructed at the Smithfield site in the centre of Birmingham, with games shown live on Sky Sport for kiwi fans.
3×3 Tall Ferns Schedule (all NZT)
Sun 31 July, 4.35am – 3×3 Tall Ferns v England
Sun 31 July, 6.55am – Canada v 3×3 Tall Ferns
Mon 1 Aug, 6.55am – 3×3 Tall Ferns v British Virgin Islands
3×3 Tall Blacks Schedule (all NZT)
Sun 31 July, 4.10am – 3×3 Tall Blacks v England
Sun 31 July, 8.10am – Australia v 3×3 Tall Blacks
Mon 1 Aug, 6.30am – 3×3 Tall Blacks v Trinidad and Tobago