MBO Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare has named 14 players from a long list of 24, for the upcoming FIBA World Cup Qualifying window. The Tall Blacks will play Jordan in Christchurch on 29 November and Syria in Wellington on 2 December. If the Tall Blacks win both games, they will qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
FIBA regulations stipulate the naming of a ‘long list’ of 24 players, from which the final 12 for any one game in that window can be selected, and Henare has cast his net again to include a few surprises alongside some seasoned veterans, with Tai Webster and Isaac Fotu not making the arduous trip from Europe for the double header in New Zealand.
The absence of Fotu and Tai Webster is counter balanced by the return of experienced swingman Tom Abercrombie and centre Alex Pledger. Abercrombie missed the most recent window with a hamstring strain while Pledger was left to settle in to his new contract and surroundings with Melbourne United in the ANBL.
“We were keen to have Tai and Isaac come and play in this window, and they too were keen to play. Unfortunately circumstances just weren’t right to bring them all that way from Europe for such a short turnaround that wasn’t in the best interests of them, us as a team, or their European club teams. It does highlight our depth though, with players like Mika, Rob, Alex, Tom and even include the likes of Finn and Tohi in that group now.
“In the guards we have one of our most experienced players in Jarrod Kenney, and Shea Ili is now one of the leaders in this team. It is another opportunity for Kruz Perrot-Hunt to have another taste of what it is like in the Tall Blacks environment. This window is a chance for him to maybe take the court and get some time on the international stage.”
Along with Rosmini College and SKYCITY Breakers development player Kruz Perrot-Hunt, young Brisbane Bullets development player Tyrell Harrison makes the 14, while the long list of 24 features another Rosmini guard in Taine Murray.
“Taine caught my eye at the Under 17 Aon Nationals this year,” said Henare from his new base in Melbourne. “I like the skillset and work rate that he has. That was one of the advantages of me being around the country for much of this year and being closer to grassroots level. He has a couple of years left in high school and may have been a little surprised at being on the long list.”
Others on the long list and clearly in the frame for Henare are Taylor Britt (Canterbury Rams), Dom Kelman-Poto (SKYCITY Breakers development player), Tom Vodanovich (SKYCITY Breakers development player and Hyrum Harris (Bay Hawks) – all of whom featured strongly on the New Zealand Select tour of China earlier this year.
“We are always trying to find the balance in naming the team to get us the results, but also having one eye on the future which we have been doing for over 12 months now. We look at potential prospects and who is playing well in positions we might be short in. That is an evolving beast, keeping track of all the players coming through as we do have great depth of talent right now, this is just another window of opportunity for some new faces.
Abercrombie returns after missing the last window and is a player central to Henare’s plans.
“It will be great to have Tommy back. It was great just to have him with the team against Lebanon in Rotorua, you could see how much it means for him to be around this team even though he knew he wasn’t going to play. He was so vocal in the buildup and on game night, it will be great to have him back in the mix, we need all the leadership and experience we can get.”
Guard Ethan Rusbatch has shown remarkable resilience in recent years as he has been in and out of the side, but will be in the squad at home in Christchurch against Jordan.
“Ethan has been around the fringes and a big part of the Tall Blacks for a little while now. He is one of the hardest guys in camp every time. This is reward for him and that hard work over the last couple of years.”
Alex Pledger is another to return having missed recent Tall Black windows as he settles into his new contract with Melbourne United.
“Alex has found his niche here in Melbourne, and seems healthy and well settled. He missed the last couple of windows, but we have him back in the mix and I know he is looking forward to pulling on a black jersey again.”
Henare knows how tough the challenge will be. The team has a short turnaround and little preparation time for the two games. Both games are important with wins over Jordan and Syria necessary to secure a place at the FIBA World Cup before the next window, and every win is vital to ensure a high seeding for the tournament draw.
“This window will be shorter than any of the others we have had, the Breakers play on the Sunday in Perth before the window, so we won’t see those guys until late Monday night. That gives us two days with the team to prepare for the first game on Thursday. It is a quick turnaround and will be tight, but we will rely on the work we have done together as a group over the past 12 months to get us through it.”
Tickets for the Tall Blacks v Jordan game in Christchurch can be purchased at www.Ticketek.co.nz.
Tickets for the Tall Blacks v Syria game in Wellington can be purchased at www.Ticketmaster.co.nz.
MBO Tall Blacks:
• Tom Abercrombie. SKYCITY Breakers
• Finn Delany. Mike Pero Nelson Giants, SKYCITY Breakers
• Tyrell Harrison. Brisbane Bullets
• Shea Ili. Cigna Saints, SKYCITY Breakers
• Jarrod Kenny. Taylor Hawks, Cairns Taipans
• Rob Loe. Cairns Taipans
• Jordan Ngatai. Cigna Saints, SKYCITY Breakers
• Kruz Perrott-Hunt. Rosmini College, SKYCITY Breakers Development
• Alex Pledger. SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks, Melbourne United
• Ethan Rusbatch. Taylor Hawks
• Tohi Smith-Milner. Mike Pero Nelson Giants, Melbourne United
• Reuben Te Rangi. SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks, Brisbane Bullets
• Mika Vukona. Mike Pero Nelson Giants, Brisbane Bullets
• Corey Webster. SKYCITY Breakers
(This list will be shortened to 12 players at least 24 hours before the Jordan game).
Rest of 24 Player Roster on standby in the case of injury or illness:
• Taylor Britt. The Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams
• Isaac Fotu. Ratiopharm Ulm
• Hyrum Harris. Taylor Hawks
• Michael Karena. The Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams
• Dom Kelman-Poto. Supercity Rangers, SKYCITY Breakers Development
• Taine Murray. Rosmini College
• Dion Prewster. Taylor Hawks
• Derone Raukawa. SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks
• Tom Vodanovich. SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks, SKYCITY Breakers Development• Tai Webster. Galatasaray