The Tall Blacks were put through their paces for the first time on tour in a forty minute scrimmage against Japan in Tokyo tonight, with Head Coach Paul Henare reflecting on a mixed outing just four days into the buildup for the Olympic Qualifying tournament in Manila.
The scrimmage was played behind closed doors in what amounted to an opposed training session for both teams, with Japan also working towards their last shot at Rio when they travel to Serbia for one of three final shot qualifying tournaments.
All 14 of the playing roster saw time on the floor, with Henare opting to run two 7 man squads for half a game each, with Finn Delany having overcome the ankle injury that ruled him out of the final weeks of the New Zealand NBL.
“I thought there were some good things and some not so good things for this stage of the campaign, things we must learn from quickly. We broke the team into two different groups nad share d the minutes around, I wanted to see the balance with the veteran guys and see what their chemistry was and likewise the newer guys who had to work things out on the fly. That was something though that I thought they needed to go through and they will be better for it.”
Henare was also watching closely knowing that he has a decision to make in just over a week, with the roster to be cut before the team travels to Europe.
“We have 14 guys needing to cut to 12 and right now it is not clear at all who that will be. We are not sure who the 12 will be which is great, it keeps guys on their toes and under pressure and you like to see how those people perform under pressure.
“I liked the way that both groups responded, the first scrimmage they were down by a big margin and found a way to adjust to how the game was being called and the intensity, which was great. Same story for the second group, quite a lesson in their first quarter and they responded to all but win their second quarter, but for a missed lay-up with time up on the clock.”
New Zealand started the game with Mika Vukona, Corey Webster, Tai Webster, Isaac Fotu, Tom Abercrombie, Ethan Rusbatch and Rob Loe on the floor, with Tai Webster spending most of the time running the point.
The second half saw Derone Raukawa, Shea Ili, BJ Anthony, Mike Karena, Finn Delany, Jordan Ngatai, and Everard Bartlett take to the floor, with the point guard duties shared by Ili and Raukawa.
Henare said at this stage of their preparation that the back to back scrimmages against Japan are perfect for his side.
“This is perfect, we are so grateful to the Japanese Federation for hosting us, the training and staying in great accommodation and getting these scrimmages under our belt with a lot of new players is perfect for the start of this campaign, all with the end goal of Manila in mind.”