The U17 Men’s National Team heads to the U16 FIBA Asia Cup in Doha, Qatar today, in the side’s first taste of international action in the past two years.
The 13-team Tournament, postponed from 2021 due to Covid, also doubles as a Qualifying Tournament for the U17 Men’s FIBA World Cup to be played in Spain in July – with the top four teams in Doha qualifying for the World Cup.
The 12-man team departed Auckland Airport this morning, bound for Doha via Tokyo.
“The team are excited, they’ve missed out on so much in the last two years due to Covid,” said New Zealand Head Coach Darren Larson.
With a FIBA World Ranking of 30, New Zealand will meet #27 South Korea and #80 Kazakhstan in Pool play – with Larson admitting that they are heading into the unknown in terms of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.
“Like us, Kazakhstan and Korea qualified automatically because of rankings so there is no film of games that we can draw upon.
“We’ve been absent from international play for two years, so it’s difficult to judge how the boys are going to go. They looked good in training but that is only measuring us against ourselves.”
Larson certainly liked what he saw of his players at the April training camp in Auckland.
“We have a long, athletic team with genuine international height. A few years ago, we struggled to find players over 6’6” but in this team, headed by Julius Halaifonua who is 6’11”, we have three boys over 6’7” and all are mobile too.”
One of those players is Nic Book. The Book name requires little introduction in Aotearoa basketball circles; with Nic being the youngest child of former Tall Black Ed Book. And like his dad, he’s quite at home patrolling the paint.
“Ed was a true centre whereas Nic is more of a four man. He’s got good size and good strength and like his dad he can shoot the ball.”
The Brisbane-based Trego twins, Hunter and Phoenix, are probably the least well-known team members among kiwi basketball fans. Brother Reegan, currently playing for the Wellington Saints, has already played for New Zealand and Larson expects the twins to display similar traits to their older brother.
“They performed very well in camp, they are strong, quick, athletic guards who have both been brought up in the tough Australian system. Coming up against unknown opposition that we’ll encounter in Doha won’t phase them.”
New Zealand begin their campaign against Kazakhstan on Sunday evening (8.15pm NZT), the opening game of the Tournament, and Larson can’t wait to see his players in action.
“The speed and spacing that the team are capable of playing with, is pretty exciting.”
U17 Men’s National Team – FIBA Asia Cup 2022 Schedule:
- Sun 12 June (8.15pm NZT) vs Kazakhstan
- Tue 14 June (10.30pm NZT) vs Korea
* Dates and times of play-off games will be dependent on the results of the two Pool games
U17 Men’s National Team
Kaia Berridge, Tauranga City Basketball
Nic Book, Canterbury Basketball
Louie Gordon, Canterbury Basketball (unable to travel due to injury)
George Grant, Basketball Otago
Julius Halaifonua, Harbour Basketball
Dante Matakatea, Basketball Auckland
William Passi, Counties-Manukau Basketball
Kalid Petzer, Basketball Auckland
Brody Perry, Franklin Basketball
Will Shortt, Basketball Auckland
Hunter Trego, New Zealand
Phoenix Trego, New Zealand
George Turner, Counties-Manukau Basketball
Head Coach – Darron Larsen
Assistant Coach – Chris Tupu
Assistant Coach – Jack Williamson
Team Manager – Scott Richardson
The U16 Asia Cup fixture schedule can be found on the link below. Live streaming will also be available on this link: www.fiba.basketball/asia/u16/2022