On the eve of their departure for a ten-day tour of China, Head Coach Paul Henare couldn’t be happier with the progress of his young New Zealand Select team and the growth they have shown in camp this week.
The New Zealand Select programme forms an important part of the elite player pathway to the Tall Blacks, giving players exposure to international basketball and the challenge of playing overseas.
Henare says the current group is again highlighting the growing depth in the game.
“New Zealand Select is about players on the fringe of the MBO Tall Blacks getting a shot at playing on the international stage, it is about building that depth of experience, enabling players to make the transition into the Tall Blacks with a greater understanding of what is required for them to succeed at that level.
“It is also a chance to develop leadership throughout that talent pool. Ethan (Rusbatch) is relishing the responsibility of being the captain of this group, while the likes of Jimmy (Hunter), Derone (Raukawa) and Mike (Karena) have to take on more responsibility in what is a young, fresh group of players.
“All four have experience in the Tall Blacks environment so know the importance of the example they set to the rest of the group, on and off the floor.”
The team will play five games in China, against Cameroon, Montenegro and a regional Chinese team. Henare says touring China is a great test for a young group.
“It isn’t just about the games, of course that is the main focus of the tour. But a tour like this gives a group an understanding of the challenges you can face playing overseas. Basketball is truly global, and we are often in a totally different environment and culture to New Zealand.
“Even the basics such as food, communication and travel can be a challenge, the earlier players can learn how to cope in those environments the better it is for them.”
The team has prepared with an intensive camp in Papakura this week, with twice a day training, video sessions and two live scrimmages against the Japanese national team as they prepare for the Asian Games.
Henare saw huge upside in the workouts against the Japanese, with the first game finishing in a 74 point deadlock, before the young New Zealanders took out the second 86-79.
“It has been great hosting Japan this week as they prepare for the Asian Games and upcoming FIBA World Cup windows, that is a relationship we are looking to build across all areas of the sport.
“We did not back off for those games, the boys trained in the morning for a couple of hours so went into the games with some fatigue. But that was the goal, we wanted to put the boys under pressure, this stage of the camp is not about results, it is about learning our systems and putting them in action against live opposition in a game situation.
“The response was superb, everyone got good minutes and everyone had a chance to grab their moment, whether on offense or defense, we saw plenty that we liked and plenty that we can work on between now and our first game in China.”
The team flies out to China early on Friday, with a full day of training to prepare for their first two games against Cameroon before then playing in a Four Nation Tournament in Hancheng.
New Zealand Select
Tour to China, August 6 to 20
· August 12 v Cameroon
· August 14 v Cameroon
· August 17 v Montenegro (4 Nation Tournament)
· August 18 v Cameroon (4 Nation Tournament)
· August 19 v Jiangsu (4 Nation Tournament)
Guards: Derone Raukawa (Sharks), Isaac Letoa (NCAA), Taylor Britt (Rams), Ethan Rusbatch (Hawks), Alonzo Burton (Mountain Airs)
Forwards: Tony Tolovae (Rams), Hyrum Harris (Hawks), Tom Vodanovich (Sharks), Dominique Kelman-Poto (Rangers), Mitchell Newton (Hawks)
Centres: James Hunter (Sharks), Michael Karena (Rams)
Head Coach Paul Henare
Assistant Coaches Judd Flavell (Sharks/NZ Breakers), Mark Dickel (Rams), Trent Adam (Mountain Airs)
Physiotherapist Hayden Sproat (Sharks)
Manager Andrew Dewhurst