Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare has named a roster of 14 players to assemble in Rotorua on Sunday ahead of the vital FIBA World Cup Qualifying games against Hong Kong (Rotorua, June 28) and China (Auckland, July 1), and included amongst the 14 is a strong hint at what the future might look like in the black singlet.
22-year-old Jack Salt makes his much-anticipated return to the team, five years since his debut as a lighter and much less experienced teenager. The University of Virginia captain brings a genuine physical presence to the paint, having bulked up his 6’10” frame under the watchful eye of coach Tony Bennett.
The guard line features a return for 19-year-old Isaac Letoa after his impressive first up showing at the FIBA Asia Cup last year. Letoa has since taken up his scholarship with Ivy League Dartmouth University and was one to impress at this week’s trial in Wellington.
The selection that will have many googling for more information however is the rapid elevation of 17-year-old Rosmini College point guard Kruz Perrott-Hunt, with Henare impressed by the youngest of the 20 players at the camp.
“I had heard good things about Kruz and had seen him first hand on a few occasions when he came in to work out with us at the Breakers last season when we needed an extra training body.
“He showed us then that he had the personality and mental strength to mix it with much older and more experienced players, something that was again highlighted this week – on and off court he settled in quickly and was quick to understand what was expected of him.
“He is one for the future for sure, but he forced our hand this week with his ball handling and decision making and has earned his chance with the team this week.”
For every good news selection story, Henare appreciates someone must receive what can only be described as a bad news call.
“These selections just emphasize our depth at the moment and the fact that last week in Wellington was a genuine trial – sure we were in preparation mode for the upcoming games, but we told the group right from the start that they were all in contention for inclusion in the 14.
“You feel for the players that have missed out and as coaches we made some very tough decisions that led to some equally tough conversations, but each and every one of them can hold their heads high and know that they will continue to contribute to the team in the future. It is the nature of the FIBA windows and our inclusion in Asia that we need a deep player pool to choose from and I believe we have a very strong group of players at our fingertips right now.”
The team enjoys a stable core of experienced veterans – young and old, players with plenty of international experience and an understanding of what it takes to win on the international stage.
Led by captain Mika Vukona, that group includes the likes of Tom Abercrombie, Jarrod Kenny, Isaac Fotu, Rob Loe and Reuben Te Rangi. All are strong leaders and will play a significant role as New Zealand aims up at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Add to that the relative youth of others with strong recent international experience in Shea Ili who returns from his NBA mini-camp with the Dallas Mavericks, Nelson Giants pairing Finn Delany and Tohi Smith-Milner and Wellington Saints forward Jordan Ngatai and Henare is not short of familiar faces to turn to in these vital two games.
There is a return also for Dion Prewster, with defensive strength being the tipping point in the Bay Hawks players selection.
“Dion is a player we know well, someone who has shown he can play at this level. He is in good form in the Sal’s NBL and showed throughout the week in Wellington that he can deliver at both ends of the floor, with his defensive presence just enough to gain him selection. This is a big opportunity for Dion, but one I know he is looking forward to.”
Henare is as always optimistic about what this group can achieve and is excited about the chance to play at home in front of two passionate crowds in Rotorua and Auckland.
“Any chance to pull on the black singlet is special, as a coaching and management group we go out of way to have our players understand the history and culture of this team, being a Tall Black is so much more than just putting the ball through a hoop.
“This is a fine group of basketballers and proud New Zealanders who will give their utmost every time they step on court, but also know the importance of representing the Tall Blacks and our sport in the community, we can’t wait to show that passion in front of our home supporters in these upcoming games, they will both be very special nights for everyone involved, fans included.”
Tall Blacks roster to play Hong Kong and China, June/July 2018
Guards: Shea Ili, NZ Breakers; Jarrod Kenny, Bay Hawks/Cairns Taipans; Dion Prewster, Bay Hawks; Isaac Letoa, Dartmouth University (USA); Jordan Ngatai, Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers; Kruz Perrott-Hunt, Rosmini College
Forwards: Tom Abercrombie, NZ Breakers; Mika Vukona, Nelson Giants/Brisbane Bullets; Finn Delany, Nelson Giants/NZ Breakers; Tohi Smith-Milner, Nelson Giants/Melbourne United; Reuben Te Rangi, Southland Sharks/Brisbane Bullets; Isaac Fotu, Ratiopharm Ulm (GER)
Centres: Jack Salt, University of Virginia (USA); Rob Loe, Cairns Taipans;
Head Coach: Paul Henare
Assistant Coaches: Pero Cameron, Ross McMains, Michael Fitchett
Physiotherapist: Anousith Bouaaphone
Massage Therapist: Shelley Moana Hiha
Manager: Andrew Dewhurst
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND ONE
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
23 Nov 2017 vs Korea at TSB Bank Arena, Wellington. Result: Tall Blacks lost 80-86
26 Nov 2017 vs Hong Kong at Southourn Stadium, Hong Kong. Result: Tall Blacks won 133-74
23 Feb 2018 vs China at Dongguan Basketball Centre, China. Result: Tall Blacks won 82-73
26 Feb 2018 vs Korea at Jamsil Gymnasium, Seoul, South Korea. Result: Tall Blacks won 93-84
28 Jun 2018 vs Hong Kong at Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tip off at 7pm. TICKETS
1 Jul 2018 vs China vs Spark Arena, Auckland. Tip off at 3pm. TICKETS
MBO Tall Blacks FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, ROUND TWO
Date | Opponents | Home/Away
- 13 Sep 2018 TBA (Pool C crossover) AWAY
- 17 Sep 2018 TBA (Pool C crossover) HOME
- 29 Nov 2018 TBA (Pool C crossover) HOME
- 2 Dec 2018 TBA (Pool C crossover) HOME
- 22 Feb 2019 TBA (Pool C crossover) AWAY
- 25 Feb 2019 TBA (Pool C crossover) AWAY
• Learn more about the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers (Asia Zone) here.
• 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 Tu Kaha and the Tall Blacks culture
• The games will be broadcast live by the Host Broadcaster, Maori Television