The Tall Blacks departed last night for their European tour to play Great Britain, Croatia and Slovenia.
Their first game will be in London to play two games against Great Britain. The first will be a closed doors scrimmage, where the teams can use the game as a competitive preparation for their Olympic qualifiers later in the season. The second will be at the Copper Box Arena, which is shaping up to be in front of a sold out crowd.
Head coach Paul Henare he’s pleased with the team’s progress after a solid preparation back home in New Zealand. He says the players have worked hard together and, despite being a relatively new group, they are building a strong bond and an enforced Tall Blacks culture.
“This is a relatively new group of players, made up of a few veterans who know what it is to wear the black singlet and to play some of the best teams in the world, mixed with a few new faces who have not yet been tested at the highest level.
“The focus through these last weeks together in Auckland and Napier has been as much about the off-court work and chemistry in the group as it has about our on-court work. Our trainers are putting the guys through some tough sessions and we have already achieved plenty on court in the short time we have had together, but now is when the playbooks really start to get a bashing as we look to completely imprint the players with the style of game that we want to play.
“Every team we play will present different challenges and we know they are all going to be tough. Great Britain are putting plenty of energy into this game. They’ll be firing on all cylinders in front of a home crowd at the Copper Box, which is the 2012 Olympic venue, and this game really will be their first international splash since the Games. Croatia and Slovenia love their basketball and both will be strong, especially on their home courts in front of their passionate fans.
“Ultimately this tour is about preparing for Australia. We will be looking inwards through all of these games, worrying less about what is in front of us, and more about what the Aussies are likely to bring on 15 August in Melbourne.”
After their games in Europe, the Tall Blacks then head to the Stankovic Cup in China for a week of rapid fire games against hosts China, Venezuela and Mexico. The team will then return to New Zealand for a final preparation camp the Melbourne leg on the Oceania Championships . The return leg is in Wellington on 18 August. The Series winner will qualify for the Rio Olympic Games.