MBO Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare is in Rotorua today to promote the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Hong Kong and has taken the chance to name 20 players to assemble in Wellington for a four-day camp, ahead of a 12-player roster being named for the upcoming FIBA World Cup Qualifying matches in Rotorua (v Hong Kong June 28) and Auckland (v China July 1). Henare has named a core group of experienced and well performed Tall Blacks but has also cast his net wide, with a view to identifying future Tall Black talent and deepen the already considerable talent pool of players. “This is always an exciting time, to work through a list of players in contention for the MBO Tall Blacks, some for the upcoming window, while others might have to be a little more patient, this is nonetheless a great opportunity to expose them to the Tall Blacks culture and way of doing things,” said Henare. “We have an exciting group of very talented players who are capable of mixing it with the best teams in the world. This is a great chance to see some of the players we know, as well as bring in some of the US based talent from their American Colleges and gauge their progress.”
Headlining the group are experienced campaigners in Mika Vukona, Tom Abercrombie, Rob Loe, Isaac Fotu, Jarrod Kenny, Reuben Te Rangi, Jordan Ngatai, and Finn Delany with all except Fotu winning bronze at the recent Commonwealth Games. Also in the mix from that 2018 Gold Coast Games roster are Tohi Smith-Milner, Ethan Rusbatch and Derone Raukawa, all of whom are currently playing in the Sal’s NBL. There is room for some of the next generation as well, with opportunities given to outstanding 17-year-old Nelson product Max Darling (Canterbury Rams) and Rosmini College guard Kruz Perrot-Hunt, as both teenagers are given the chance to experience Tall Blacks culture for the first time.
Henare says the support from throughout the Sal’s NBL has been crucial as he looks to get as much time with the group as possible ahead of the crucial World Cup qualifiers. “Without exception, the coaches in the Sal’s NBL have bought into what we are looking to achieve and have released their players for the camp. They were not obligated to have to do so and disrupt their seasons, but this preparation is vital for the national team. China has two teams already in full preparation a month out from the game on July 1st, we must do all we can to be ready come tip off and the NBL clubs have been superb in their understanding. “The camp is also a great chance to look at some of our emerging young talent, with Kruz and Max, two young players getting the chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Tom, Mika and Isaac at the camp and understand the levels they must aspire to early in their careers.” Shea Ili (Wellington Saints) will miss the camp while attending an NBA mini-camp with the Dallas Mavericks, but the point guard will return in time to be available for the two FIBA World Cup Qualifying Games. The camp and window present an opportunity for one of New Zealand’s leading young prospects to remind local fans of his progress over the past four years at the University of Virginia, with 6 foot 10 centre Jack Salt back in the fold for the first time since his debut as a 17-year-old just over four years ago. Others joining from their respective American College programmes are Tobias Cameron, Jackson Stent and Isaac Letoa, as they take up the opportunity during summer break in the States. “We have so many talented young players - boys and girls, currently in the American College system. The timing is perfect for us to invite several of them in to this camp and for them to put their hands up for Tall Blacks selection. I can’t wait to see the development in Jack, Jackson, Tobias and Isaac in the time they have been away, and to further integrate them into our national team culture,” said Henare. Players to make themselves unavailable for the camp and subsequent FIBA World Cup Qualifiers include Steven Adams, Alex Pledger, Tai Webster (NBA camp) and several players with American College study commitments. Corey Webster’s status is yet to be confirmed as Basketball New Zealand seeks a release from his team in China for the duration of the FIBA Window. Players invited to the Tall Blacks Camp, June 17 to 21, Wellington Guards: Jarrod Kenny, Bay Hawks; Derone Raukawa, Southland Sharks; Dion Prewster, Bay Hawks; Isaac Letoa, Dartmouth University (USA); Ethan Rusbatch, Bay Hawks; Jordan Ngatai, Wellington Saints; Tobias Cameron, Abilene Christian University (USA); Alonzo Burton, Taranaki Mountain Airs; Kruz Perrot-Hunt, Rosmini College Forwards: Tom Abercrombie, NZ Breakers; Mika Vukona, Nelson Giants; Finn Delany, Nelson Giants; Tohi Smith-Milner, Nelson Giants; Jackson Stent, Houston Baptist University USA); Reuben Te Rangi, Southland Sharks; Isaac Fotu, Ratiopharm Ulm (GER); Max Darling, Canterbury Rams Centres: Jack Salt, University of Virginia (USA); Rob Loe, Cairns Taipans; Tyrell Harrison, Southwest Metro Pirates (AUS)