The MBO Tall Blacks will return to Rotorua to play Lebanon on 17 September as part of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers.
Basketball New Zealand Chief Executive, Iain Potter, says the Tall Blacks planned to play at least two games in Rotorua this year, in support of the Rotorua Lakes Council who invested in upgrading the Energy Events Centre to meet FIBA standards set for high-level internationals.
“One of the early challenges we faced in these World Cup Qualifiers was meeting the FIBA standards required to host these matches. We’ve found a number of regions have been eager to host international basketball and have worked hard to meet those standards. The Rotorua Lakes Council hosted a great game there against Hong Kong in June. Now the Tall Blacks will face a far tougher test against Lebanon, so we’re thrilled to return and look forward to seeing the fans flock back to support the boys,” says Mr Potter.
Rotorua Lakes Councillor Charles Sturt, who leads Rotorua Lakes Council’s sport and recreation portfolio, says the Tall Blacks will be welcomed back with open arms.
“It’s fantastic that our Energy Events Centre is now able to host international basketball. Our first Tall Blacks game was a real winner with the fans, especially youngsters who got to engage with their heroes and see there is a pathway to the top.
“To have another match coming our way already is really exciting and means the investment we’ve made in ensuring we meet the requirements for international basketball is paying off. Attracting high calibre events like this is an opportunity to showcase Rotorua and keep us on the map with event organisers and promoters.
“We’ve got a strong basketball following here and I’m sure fans from Rotorua and beyond will show their support,” Cr Sturt says.
And indeed they should considering Lebanon is followed by a legion of their own fans. Lebanon boasts one of the loudest crowds that the Tall Blacks have ever played in front of. Head Coach of the Tall Blacks, Paul Henare, says when the Tall Blacks played Lebanon in Beirut it was one of the most frenetic crowds the team has experienced.
“In August 2017 we played Lebanon at the Asia Cup in front of their home crowd. The noise in the stadium was truly deafening, with the home support like nothing the Tall Blacks had experienced before. Players could not hear each other from a few feet away, let alone hear anything from the bench due to the feverish crowd support. I know Lebanon’s fans are amongst the most passionate in the world and I certainly expect there will be some Lebanese flags flying in Rotorua in September. Thankfully I know the Tall Blacks fans are strong in Rotorua. The boys loved playing there. The people of Rotorua were so welcoming when we were hosted there, we really appreciated it and we’re looking forward to returning and taking on the mighty Cedars with the locals behind us,” says Coach Henare.
The Tall Blacks managed to win that Asia Cup game against Lebanon 86 to 82, but that was two years ago. The Lebanese side that will travel to New Zealand were unlucky not to top Pool C in Round One of the Qualifiers. They finished the first round with 5 wins and 1 loss. They narrowly lost to Jordan in November 2017, 83-87. That said, they’re on a winning streak having beaten Jordan 77-76 last month.
Tickets for the MBO Tall Blacks verses Lebanon will go on sale 1 August at www.Ticketmaster.co.nz.
All of the Tall Blacks World Cup Qualifying Games will be broadcast by Maori Television, which is also producing a webisode series call Tū Kaha on maoritelevision.com, giving a behind the scenes glimpse of the Tall Blacks team.
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND TWO
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
• 13 Sep 2018 vs Syria. AWAY
• 17 Sep 2018 vs Lebanon. Energy Events Centre, Rotorua.
• 29 Nov 2018, Jordan. Horncastle Arena, Christchurch.
• 2 Dec 2018, vs Syria, HOME (VENUE TBA).
• 22 Feb 2019 vs Lebanon AWAY
• 25 Feb 2019 vs Jordan AWAY