The MBO (pronounced Maybo) New Zealand Tall Blacks have settled into Hong Kong for what they hope to be a successful smash and grab visit, spending just over 48 hours in the buzzing metropolis as they take on the hosts in their second FIBA World Cup Qualifying game.
The Monday morning game (1am NZT) is a chance for the New Zealanders to get their first win of the World Cup campaign, following Thursday night’s close defeat at the hands of Korea in Wellington.
Head Coach Paul Henare is expecting a strong response from his team.
“We haven’t had to talk too much about Thursday night, the players were hurting then – as they should have been, we were all hurting and looking at what we could have done differently as coaches, management and players.
“But the key is to then turn that into positive action, and the best way for that to happen is to get back on court and play again, and we are fortunate in that we can do so on Sunday here in Hong Kong (Monday morning NZT).”
Henare says it is important that his team sets their own standards, regardless of the opposition, and as such will pay Hong Kong the utmost respect heading into the clash.
“One thing that non-basketball fans will quickly realize with our move into Asia, is just how competitive and how serious the game is on a global basis. Nothing is taken for granted and no team can be taken lightly.
“Hong Kong will present different challenges to the Koreans and will be urged on by a passionate home crowd. This is another learning for us in the new world of Asia and the new FIBA World Cup system, we have to overcome the travel, the time zone and the opposition and find a way to get the win and split these opening games in qualifying.”
With the next FIBA window not until February 2018 when the Tall Blacks will travel to Korea and China, Henare says this is a great chance to understand the limited time available in preparation.
“Historically we have enjoyed 4 and 5-week tours, long build up campaigns to significant games or tournaments. Those days are pretty much gone, and we now live in a world without that time to prepare, to smooth off the rough edges. Everyone is quickly understanding that they have to come into camp ready to go, both physically and mentally, they have to be on the same page.”
Henare has a fully fit roster to choose from, with Finn Delany the only change from the 12 that took on Korea on Thursday, with captain Mika Vukona reluctantly stepping aside to give the young forward his chance.
“The decision to leave Mika at home was planned out some time ago. We are not always going to have our full quota of players for each of these windows, so it is important that we continue to build depth and expose players to this sort of experience, the travel, the away venue and the international competition.
“Mika wanted to play, he was hurting more than most after Thursday night, but while he had his hand up to be with us here, he understands the big picture at work as well and will play an important role in this campaign, on and off court.”
The team will disband after the match with players returning to their respective clubs around the world, with the New Zealand based players returning to Auckland on Tuesday morning.
MBO New Zealand Tall Blacks v Hong Kong
Monday 27 November, 1am tip off (NZT)
Southorn Stadium, Hong Kong
Live on Maori Television (1am Monday 27 November NZT).
Live Stats here.
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.
Group A - Tests
• 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.