Overnight FIBA has announced the New Zealand Tall Blacks will play the Australian Boomers on 20 February in Australia. The venue is yet to be announced, but it is likely to be in Cairns.
Basketball New Zealand, Basketball Australia and FIBA have been working hard behind the scenes this week to see this game played. The fixture was organised after the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifying event that was scheduled to played in the Philippines on 18 – 22 February was cancelled last week due to COVID 19 and a travel ban was imposed by the Philippines Government in attempt to mitigate the increasing severity of outbreak there.
It’s still unclear when the Tall Blacks will play their other remaining FIBA Asia Cup qualifying matches against Guam and Hong Kong, but there’s still time for all Group C games to be completed before the Asia Cup tips off in August.
For this February window, FIBA also shuffled other qualifying games. Both games between Guam and Hong Kong will be played in Bahrain on 19 and 21 February. Group A joins Groups B and E in Doha, Qatar.
The Tall Blacks team that will play Australia is likely to be a very different looking squad because players cannot easily return to New Zealand in February. Last year, Basketball New Zealand sought access to Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) rooms to enable the team’s return from the February window, but none were available at the time. For this reason, Basketball New Zealand says selectors will not be rostering players who are based in New Zealand, but are looking at players based in Australia.
Head Coach Pero Cameron says selectors will not call on the top Kiwis currently playing in the ANBL, but NBL1 and ANBL development players are considerations.
“Our guys in the ANBL are juggling a difficult season and we don’t want to add pressure to their commitments. We see this as another opportunity to increase the Tall Blacks depth of talent, something we have done since the Young Bloods team that played the Asia Cup in 2017. This is New Zealand versus Australia and any player that wears the black jersey will have answered the call to bleed black,” says Cameron.
Basketball New Zealand Head of High Performance, Leonard King, says the Tall Blacks medical team will have plans to see the team managed under careful health and safety conditions.
“Player welfare remains our highest priority. The management of our team will be under health and safety protocols from FIBA, as well as our protocols put in place by our very experienced medical team.”
The Tall Blacks are also scheduled to play in a FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia, which was rescheduled to be played 29 June – 4 July, 2021. Basketball New Zealand says the Tall Blacks are still committed to playing the event and monitoring communication from the IOC, NZOC and FIBA.
Currently the New Zealand Tall Blacks are top of Group C in the Asia Cup Qualifiers, having already beaten Guam and Australia in the first window in 2020.
Further details including venue and broadcast will be released ahead of event.