Four Southland Sharks feature in Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare's travelling roster of 12 for the upcoming Asia Cup in Lebanon, with the team also set for preparation games in China.
Reuben Te Rangi will lead the squad which includes three of his 2017 SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks team mates, Derone Raukawa and debutants Luke Aston and James Hunter.
The dozen players have been named after three days of a six-day camp in Auckland, and will scrimmage against China in two closed door games today and Tuesday at Bruce Pulman Arena, before departing for China on Wednesday night.
In naming the twelve, Henare has five Tall Black debutants on his hands, with Isaac Letoa, Dyson King-Hawea and Sam Timmins joining Hunter and Aston in being poised to represent at the highest level for the first time (Timmins has previously attended a camp).
Henare is excited about that prospect, as greater depth is added to the game at the top level ahead of a busy few years of FIBA World Cup Qualifiers and the prospect of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
“The great thing about young players is their eagerness to learn and the freshness with which they approach everything. Many of them have had a taste of international basketball with the Select team, but they know that this is another level, I am fascinated to see how they react to the chance they have been given.
“We have spoken about our goals, we have spoken about what is expected of this group and they understand the opportunity that is in front of them, as individuals and as a group. The Asia Cup is a great opportunity for us, the first of many international challenges over the next 12 months, and it is important that we continue to build the depth of our playing pool, and ensure that we have players with international experience to call upon at any time.
The team will play two scrimmages against the full Chinese national team while in camp (Monday and Tuesday), with both games essentially live training sessions for Henare’s team. Given the closed doors nature of the games and the fact they are within the training camp and early stages of preparation for the team, they are not official internationals and players will not receive caps.
“These games came at the request of the Chinese, for them they are perfect given they have been touring in Australia and were looking for another couple of hit outs. Our focus right now however is not on games, it is on preparing and being ready for the Asia Cup next month, so we will be trained as per usual this morning, and will be using them as an opportunity for some live scrimmaging and sharing minutes throughout the group.”
The team will be led by Reuben Te Rangi, with Finn Delany and Shea Ili also named to a three-man leadership group, but Henare stressed that all players are expected to lead in their own way.
“I am extremely proud of Reuben and his development these past few years, I have known him a long time and watched him progress as a player and as a man, he has been superb in camp and has shown natural leadership qualities that will be important to this group, he was a unanimous choice amongst the management team for the captaincy.
“But everyone will be expected to pull their weight, for such a new group, it is important that they all find ways to contribute, whether vocally, through their actions or in their contribution to the team on and off court.”
Tall Blacks Roster to the Asia Cup, Lebanon, August 8 to 23
Shea Ili, point guard, SKYCITY Breakers/Wellington Saints; Derone Raukawa, point guard, SKYCITY Breakers, Southland Sharks; Isaac Letoa, point guard, Wellington Saints; Ethan Rusbatch, guard, Canterbury Rams; Luke Aston, guard, Southland Sharks; Reuben Te Rangi, guard/small forward, Brisbane Bullets, Southland Sharks; Dyson King-Hawea, forward, Nunawading Spectres; Jordan Ngatai, guard/small forward, Wellington Saints; Tohi Smith-Milner, forward, Melbourne United; Finn Delany, forward, SKYCITY Breakers; Sam Timmins, centre, Washington University; James Hunter, forward/centre, Southland Sharks;