Tall Black Jordan Ngatai has arrived in his home-region of Wellington for the MBO Tall Blacks encounter with Syria on Sunday 2 December at TSB Bank Arena. If New Zealand win, they will qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
Porirua born and raised Ngatai has played eight of the nine games throughout the FIBA World Cup Qualifying campaign averaging 10.3 points per game. He leads the team in three-point percentage in this competition, having converted 16 from 27 attempts at a heady 59 percent.
Against Team Jordan on Thursday night, the small forward scored 17 points making all but one of his six shots from beyond the arc. Coach Paul Henare spoke of Ngatai’s growth after that game.
“Jordan’s developed into a hell of a player not just this year but over the past eighteen months. He’s worked his butt off and that’s not the first time he has got hot from the three-point line playing for the Tall Blacks, he’s just a wonderful addition to the team.
“We had a really good rotation with Reuben (Te Rangi), Tom (Abercrombie) and Jordan in that two-three position. Having all those guys that can shoot the ball at such a high clip is a great luxury to have. Any time you can have multiple threats on the floor your team is in good shape.” Henare added.
Naturally enough Ngatai is looking forward to the game against Syria.
“I can’t wait for the opportunity, Wellington has always been such a good basketball city and especially how the Wellington Saints have been promoting the game.”
Ngatai is of course not only a New Zealand Breakers player, but also a Wellington Saints player having helped the club win the Sal’s NBL title in 2017 and finishing runners-up in 2018.
“It’s going to be awesome playing in front of my family and friends and Saints supporters, there will be a lot there,” said Ngatai.
When pushed, the Mana College alum confessed his mum was his biggest fan, but certainly not the only family member shouting for the 25 year-old forward.
“My nieces and nephews have all the gear, the singlets and basketballs, and because I haven’t seen them for a while I’m sure they will all be there screaming and yelling,” said Ngatai.
Like most sports teams the Tall Blacks focus on one game at a time but this next one takes on a special element of being the a chance to qualify for the World Cup. “We have bigger goals of qualifying for the World Cup and our biggest ambition is to get an Olympic ticket.”
The 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist debuted for the national team back in 2013 and has been a regular member of the team since 2016. However he was still very surprised when asked to lead the Tall Blacks haka by Head Coach Paul Henare.
“I was shocked when Pauli asked me and didn’t know how to approach it to be honest. I was honoured obviously, but a little bit shy and apprehensive at the same time because there are players like Mika, Tom and Corey at my side who have played big games for the Tall Blacks.
“If they accepted it, I was more than happy to take it on and happily they have bought into it, and allowed me to lead it and be the kaea for the haka.
“It’s been very special because there are not many people who can say they have led a haka, especially one for a national team at major events such as the FIBA Asia Cup and Commonwealth Games, it’s been awesome.”
“My Iwi is Ngati Toa Rangatira from Porirua. The Ngatai is from my step-dad’s side in Mt Maunganui and then also my dad’s family that I keep in touch with are from Tokoroa.”
Last year Ngatai studied Te Reo Maori at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) with Tall Blacks teammate Derone Raukawa.
“It had been a while since I had studied or spoken Maori. When I was in primary and intermediate school I was really into the culture doing Kapa haka and had really felt I needed to get back to my roots. It was really good, I knew most the stuff and it was really a case of applying it in day to day life.
“That’s what I took out of it the most, try and apply it as much as possible.”
The Tall Blacks kaea is in good form and hopefully good voice.
Tickets for the Tall Blacks v Syria game in Wellington can be purchased at www.Ticketmaster.co.nz.
MBO Tall Blacks. FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, Window Five Round Two:
Tom Abercrombie. SKYCITY Breakers
Tyrell Harrison. Brisbane Bullets
Shea Ili. Cigna Saints, SKYCITY Breakers
Jarrod Kenny. Taylor Hawks, Cairns Taipans
Rob Loe. Cairns Taipans
Jordan Ngatai. Cigna Saints, SKYCITY Breakers
Kruz Perrott-Hunt. Rosmini College, SKYCITY Breakers
Alex Pledger. SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks, Melbourne United
Derone Raukawa. SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks
Ethan Rusbatch. Taylor Hawks
Tohi Smith-Milner. Mike Pero Nelson Giants, Melbourne United
Reuben Te Rangi. SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks, Brisbane Bullets
Tom Vodanovich. SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks, SKYCITY Breakers
Mika Vukona. Mike Pero Nelson Giants, Brisbane Bullets
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND TWO
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
• AWAY: 13 Sep 2018 vs Syria, Nouhad Nawfal Stadium, Zouk Mikael, Lebanon Tall Blacks won 107-66
• HOME: 17 Sep 2018 vs Lebanon, Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tall Blacks won 63-60
• HOME: 29 Nov 2018 vs Jordan, Horncastle Arena, Christchurch. Tall Blacks won 95-69
• HOME: 2 Dec 2018 vs Syria, TSB Bank Arena, Wellington
• AWAY: 21 or 22 Feb 2019 vs Lebanon in Lebanon
• AWAY: 24 or 25 Feb 2019 vs Jordan in Jordan
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND ONE
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
23 Nov 2017 vs Korea at TSB Bank Arena, Wellington. Tall Blacks lost 80-86
26 Nov 2017 vs Hong Kong at Southourn Stadium, Hong Kong. Tall Blacks won 133-74
23 Feb 2018 vs China at Dongguan Basketball Centre, China. Tall Blacks won 82-73
26 Feb 2018 vs Korea at Jamsil Gymnasium, Seoul, South Korea. Tall Blacks won 93-84
28 Jun 2018 vs Hong Kong at Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tall Blacks won 124-65
1 Jul 2018 vs China vs Spark Arena, Auckland. Tall Blacks won 67-57
• 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. Hashtags: #TuKaha #TallBlacks #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse
• Tall Blacks website
• Read about Tū Kaha and the Tall Blacks culture
• The games will be broadcast live by the Host Broadcaster, Maori Television
• Watch the Tū Kaha webisode series on the Tall Blacks.