Basketball New Zealand has confirmed the 12-player roster to take on Australia in the 2021 Asia Cup qualifier in Brisbane on tonight (live on Maori Television from 9:30pm). Tonight’s game and the second in Guam on 23 February fall in the official FIBA window, with clubs obliged to release their players to their respective national teams around the world.
The game at Nissan Arena in Brisbane tonight looms as a most intriguing one, with both rosters missing a number of regular starters, it is a chance for the next level of players to shine on the international stage in a crucial start to the qualifying programme.
Head Coach Pero Cameron is excited at the prospect and the way his team has come together in such a short time this week, with experienced players like Mika Vukona and Reuben Te Rangi returning after missing the World Cup, to play alongside fresh faces like Taylor Britt, Hyrum Harris, Tom Vodanovich and a core of largely young but experienced Tall Blacks like Shea Ili, Jordan Ngatai, Rob Loe, Tohi Smith-Milner and Jarrod Kenny.
“Time together is always the challenge, especially in this February window with what is a very youthful but exciting group of players. There are a number of players missing for various reasons, but our focus is on who we have, not who we don’t have, that is always the Tall Blacks culture.
“There is a real energy and passion already evident in the group and they know the opportunity in front of them, a rare chance to play Australia in a FIBA window, and an even more rare chance to defeat them on their home court.
“Australia is our traditional rival, this is the one, it always has been and always will, they are a great benchmark. We have a wonderful record of competing with them over the years, but not a huge amount of success in terms of wins, we will be doing our all to add another one tonight.”
Basketball New Zealand has, if you excuse the pun, ‘jumped through hoops’ to find a balance in selecting the best possible Tall Blacks team, while ensuring that player welfare is paramount in that selection process, with longer term club and national team commitments also considered.
Basketball New Zealand has been proactive in communicating with Australian National League clubs, to ensure that players are indeed released to represent their country and not put in cotton wool ahead of the upcoming end of season playoffs.
Basketball New Zealand High Performance Manager Leonard King says the FIBA system of international windows should remove any grey areas when it comes to player selection, and yet it is still one that the national body and clubs are coming to terms with.
“The FIBA windows are a great initiative, protecting both the integrity of the international game, and the club competitions that contract the players year-round. These windows are posted months if not years in advance and allow everyone to plan around them, with clubs knowing that players will be in contention for their national team during those times.
“They are not however an opportunity for national teams to put player welfare at risk. Our medical team monitors players mental and physical health throughout the season, talking to club medical teams and sharing information about injuries or player loading. We have been proactive with the players and clubs and in the case of this window, we made the decision to remove a number of key players from selection, to ensure that they remain fresh and are not put at risk through excess travel, loading or general stress.”
Tall Black players in that category in this window include Corey Webster, Tom Abercrombie, Alex Pledger, Isaac Fotu, Tai Webster and Jack Salt, while others have not been considered due to injury or continued rehabilitation or have withdrawn for personal reasons.
But King says that despite making great improvements in that area over the past four years, New Zealand does not have the luxury of an Australian depth chart, and consequently cannot overlook every player involved in the ANBL post-season.
“Selection for any window is never cut and dried, each player and each situation must be taken on its individual merits, with players and clubs given opportunity well in advance to enable us to plan accordingly,” said King.
“Our players are fiercely proud of pulling on the black singlet and know how important these games are to qualifying not only for the 2021 Asia Cup, but the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympic Games beyond that, but that doesn’t mean they are any less loyal to their clubs. The windows are well defined and should be cut and dried as far as the clubs are concerned, if the player is fit and ready, they should be encouraged to continue their international careers.”
The Tall Blacks play Australia at the Brisbane Arena on February 20 (tonight), before then travelling to Guam for the game on the 23rd, returning to their clubs on February 25th.
Tall Blacks Roster for February FIBA window
Guards: Shea Ili (Melbourne United), Jarrod Kenny (Cairns Taipans), Taylor Britt (Perth Wildcats), Ethan Rusbatch (NZ Breakers), Jordan Ngatai (NZ Breakers), Reuben Te Rangi (Brisbane Bullets), Dion Prewster (Bay Hawks)
Forwards: Tom Vodanovich (NZ Breakers), Mika Vukona (Brisbane Bullets), Hyrum Harris (Illawarra Hawks),
Centres: Rob Loe (NZ Breakers), Tohi Smith-Milner (Melbourne United)
Head Coach, Pero Cameron
Assistant Coaches, Ross McMains, Mike Fitchett, Judd Flavell
Physiotherapist, Anousith Bouaphonne
Doctor, Hamish Osborne
Massage Therapist, Shelley Moana-Hiha
Manager, Andrew Dewhurst
FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers | Round One
- 20 February. Tall Blacks v Australia, Nissan Stadium, Brisbane, Australia
- 23 February. Tall Blacks v Guam, Calvo Fieldhouse, Yigo Village, Guam.
- Official FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers Website: http://www.fiba.basketball/asiacup/2021/qualifiers
- Tall Blacks webpage: https://nz.basketball/national-teams/tall-blacks/
- Follow the Tall Blacks’ social media channels: @TallBlacks Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Hashtags: #TuKaha #TallBlacks
Maori Television will broadcast both games live:
- 9:30pm V Australia, 20 February 20
- 7:50pm V Guam, 23 February