Corey Webster has always loved pulling on the black singlet and representing his country, the fact he will get to do that alongside his brother Tai in meaningful games played at home over the next few years just adds to the appeal for the shooting guard currently plying his trade in Israel.
The Tall Blacks open their FIBA World Cup qualifying campaign with a game against Asia Cup bronze medallists South Korea in Wellington on 23 November. Webster has been named in an extended roster of 23 players to prepare for that game and an away clash with Hong Kong on November 26.
Webster wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to wearing the silver fern.
“Pulling on the black jersey and representing New Zealand is always an honour. I always look forward to catching up with the brothers again and going to war for our country, I am excited to have a little break from a long grind of a season here and coming home to play some basketball for New Zealand in front of friends and family,” said Webster.
“It is a great opportunity for us to prove ourselves at home and get our fans on board. Usually we are playing overseas and don’t get too much opportunity at home, especially in a big game like this where everything matters, so this is great for us, great for New Zealand and great for basketball fans in Wellington. I think it will be an awesome game and I hope it is a sell-out.”
Webster has a strong history with Wellington and will be a huge attraction to hoops fans in the capital, after winning three titles in three different stints with the Wellington Saints, including the 2017 championship earlier this year.
“Wellington is my second home, it will be great to play in front of Wellington fans. It would be great to play in Auckland, but Wellington is the next best thing for me and I think it will be great to give all the fans down there a great showcase. Family and friends are coming down, I am excited to catch up with them again briefly, but everyone will be there, so it will be good to see them all.”
There is a very strong chance that fans will get to see both Webster guards in action as well, with younger brother Tai also named in the 23 to prepare for the Korea game. Tai has just started his professional career in Germany, where in his most recent game he put up 31 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists.
“I always look forward to playing with my little bro, especially playing for our country, it is something we both always wanted to do. It is just awesome that we share that experience at the same time. I am proud of him, he is doing great and has started his pro career now in Germany and is playing great. It is always good for me to see his growth when I catch up with him, I am looking forward to it.”
Head Coach Paul Henare is looking forward to working with both Webster brothers and knows fans will love seeing the two on the floor together, final selection permitting.
“Most of New Zealand will know about Corey and what he brings to any team he plays on, he is an out-and-out scorer and has proven that at the highest level of the game over the past few years.
“Many might not have seen Tai play – at least maybe not live, and they will love the chance to see what he can do and just what a talent he is. Whether it is in this first window or further down the track in other home games, the chance to see the Webster brothers in action in the Tall Blacks uniform is one not to be missed.
“Like all of our players, Corey and Tai share a love for the Tall Blacks, our culture and living up to what has gone before them and setting an example for those that will follow. Whoever makes the final cut for the Wellington game will give their all for the singlet and leave it all on the floor, the fans can be assured of that.”
Corey reflects on that when he talks about the quality of the roster that will likely be on display in Wellington, with the new FIBA windows making it easier for players to gain a release from their clubs to turn out for New Zealand in crucial qualifying games.
“It has been a struggle in the past with injuries or unavailability with some guys, but we have one of the strongest squads we have seen in a while. It will be awesome to play with those guys and I hope we can put together a couple of great games and get a couple of wins, I know everyone is ready and working hard. The Breakers boys have their rhythm going so it will be good to catch up with them too.”
The final makeup of the 14 players to assemble in Wellington, with 12 then named to take on Korea at TSB Arena on 23 November, will not now be known until closer to the game, with Coach Henare pondering a number of selection conundrums thrown up on the back of the great showing by a young team at the recent FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut.
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