The MBO Tall Blacks have been rewarded for their recent strong World Cup qualification games and a subsequent strong showing at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, where they finished 19th ranked in China after defeating three teams ranked higher going into the tournament.
The FIBA World Ranking list has just been updated today and the Tall Blacks have jumped a huge 14 places to now be ranked 24 in the world. This is a strong reward for their performances over the past two years, culminating in that strong showing in China with big wins over Montenegro, Japan and Turkey, along with close defeats to Greece and Brazil.
Basketball New Zealand CEO Iain Potter is delighted that the team not only had the world talking about the team, but that the Tall Blacks results impacted on the complicated ranking system.
“We certainly had the global basketball community sitting up and taking notice with the way the team performed in China, not only with the wins, but the manner in which we took on some of the best teams in the world and put our own imprint on those games and the tournament.
“Genuine respect was gain from other national programmes, with teams modifying their game plans to try and combat the Tall Blacks – in some situations to no avail, particularly in that final victory over world number 17 ranked Turkey.”
That win of course confirmed the Tall Blacks as one of 24 teams left chasing the final four spots at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, with the winners of four repechage tournaments in June next year joining the eight teams already locked in for the Olympics.
The challenge for the team and for Basketball New Zealand is to now capitalize on the performances in China and put in place a preparation to give them every shot of success and a spot at the Olympics.
“I think everyone is aware the Basketball New Zealand’s high performance programmes are run on the smell of an oily rag, but we have become very adept at building relationships and making the most of every opportunity within our resources. It’s clear this team can make big strides, in part that’s thanks to the clever and diligent work led by our High Performance Manager Leonard King and the attitude and approach taken by the players, and the coaches Paul Henare, Pero Cameron, Ross McMains, Mike Fitchett, and staff who leave no stone unturned and never look for excuses.
“Next, we will need to give the Tall Blacks every shot at a place at the Olympics and with it a chance at a medal. Once the location of the tournament is announced, a buildup will be prepared to help them build on what was achieved in China,” says Mr Potter.
Head Coach Paul Henare is not one for getting too caught up in the ranking system but is delighted that recent results are showing the team trending in the right direction.
“I’m not too worried about rankings and I am not even sure how they are calculated. It is results that matter for me and how we perform and represent New Zealand on the world stage, but if the ranking has an impact and can help us gain entry to tournaments and secure sponsorship and funding, then of course we want to be as high as possible.
“What we showed in China is that this is a world class team that can foot it with some of the best and, with the win over Turkey in particular, beat some of the best in the world. We were certainly aware of that buzz around the team in China with the basketball community sitting up and taking notice.”
The move ranks New Zealand among the biggest movers, with only Ivory Coast (+16), Tunisia (+18), Cyprus (+15) and newcomers Kosovo (+21) making a bigger gain in rankings among the top 100 in the world. Australia moved up eight places to third on the back of their fourth-place finish. New Zealand is also now officially the third ranked Asian team behind Australia and Iran (22).
Latest FIBA World Rankings: http://www.fiba.basketball/rankingmen