MBO New Zealand Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare has named his 12 players to suit up and tackle South Korea in the opening game of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifying series – in fact it is the first game in the new World Cup format played anywhere in the world.
Such is the gravity of the occasion that FIBA has requested that the game ball from TSB Stadium tomorrow (Thursday) night to be sent back to headquarters in Europe, for inclusion in the FIBA Hall of Fame.
Henare has a squad big on experience, while also including a number of players who impressed at the recent FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, with Shea Ili, Reuben Te Rangi, Jordan Ngatai and Tohi Milner-Smith making the final 12.
They are joined by vastly experienced players such as captain Mika Vukona, Tom Abercrombie, Corey Webster and Jarrod Kenny, while Isaac Fotu and Tai Webster are both included having been released by their German clubs.
Bigs’ Rob Loe and Alex Pledger provide rim protection and rebounding for the Tall Blacks, in a team that has balance in size, experience and plenty of scoring potential in the guard line, with Ili in great form for the SKYCITY Breakers, and the Webster brothers both returning from Europe.
Henare says the players are in good spirits and looking forward to the challenge.
“As a group they have come together very quickly and renewed friendships and combinations on the floor. The travel is a factor for those coming in from Europe, but they love playing for their country and have adjusted quickly to the time zone and understand what we are trying to achieve, not just with the World Cup in mind, but beyond that to Tokyo 2020.
“Korea presents a formidable challenge, they play a brand of basketball that we respect, and we expect them to be tough to roll. We saw first hand at the Asia Cup how good they can be and with the limited scouting that has been available since, we have done as much homework as we can to be ready.”
Mika Vukona will captain the team, with Reuben Te Rangi rewarded for his impressive showing as captain at the Asia Cup with the vice captaincy, as he continues to impress on and off court with the national team.
Tall Blacks Roster to play Korea, TSB Stadium, Thursday November 23rd
• Shea Ili (SKYCITY Breakers/Wellington Saints)
• Jarrod Kenny (Perth Wildcats/Bay Hawks)
• Tai Webster (Fraport Skyliners)
• Reuben Te Rangi (Brisbane Bullets/Southland Sharks)
• Corey Webster (Ironi Nahariya/Wellington Saints)
• Tom Abercrombie (SKYCITY Breakers)
• Jordan Ngatai (SKYCITY Breakers/Wellington Saints)
• Isaac Fotu (Ratiopharm Ulm)
• Tohi Milner-Smith (Melbourne United)
• Mika Vukona (SKYCITY Breakers)
• Rob Loe (SKYCITY Breakers)
• Alex Pledger (SKYCITY Breakers/Southland Sharks)
Tall Blacks v Korea, 23 November, TSB Bank Arena, Wellington: Tickets on sale now via www.ticketmaster.co.nz
Group A - Tests
New Zealand is in Group A for the first window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, along with China, South Korea and Hong Kong.
The top three will progress and carry points through to next window of qualifying.
• 23 November v South Korea, Wellington
• 26 November v Hong Kong, away
• 23 February v China, away
• 26 February v South Korea, away
• 28 June v Hong Kong, NZ. Venue TBA.
• 1 July v China, NZ. Venue TBA.
• Read the longlist of 24 players named
• The meaning of Tu Kaha, the Tall Blacks haka
• Learn more about the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers (Asia Zone).
• Tall Blacks supporters gear can be purchased here.
• Follow the Tall Blacks’ social media channels: @TallBlacks Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.