The MBO Tall Blacks have booked a place at 2019 FIBA World Cup in China after comfortably beating Syria 97-74 in front of a vocal crowd at TSB Bank Arena this afternoon.
The Tall Blacks ninth straight win guarantees them a place at next year’s showpiece event in China with two qualifying games still to play.
It will be the Tall Blacks fifth consecutive appearance at the FIBA World Cup and the sixth time they have played at the prestigious event overall.
Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare reflected on the lead up to finally qualifying.
“It was just over a year to the day that we were playing here in Wellington against Korea, but it started a little bit before with the Asia Cup campaign. That was like our first taste in the Asia Zone. So for about 14 or 15 months, we have been planning to get to this stage since we have known about this change in system.
“It has been enjoyable, we have now played 22 different players in the windows and who knows, we could be adding to that in February. It has exposed our players, both inexperienced and experienced to more regular international hoops.”
Henare emphasized that there were still two qualifying games to play in Lebanon and Jordan, and that those games are important.
“Our next goal is to finish as the highest possible seed so we go into the draw for the World Cup with a good chance of getting a good draw. For us nothing changes, we will take our best possible team to Lebanon and Jordan, and try to continue this winning streak.
“We will be selecting from a very similar player pool. Guys in the US won’t be available, but we will definitely be keeping tabs on Tai Webster and Isaac Fotu. Going a little closer to them, it would make sense to bring them in if possible. We will take all of those things into consideration,” he said.
Henare was really pleased with how his team began the game.
“We started the game really well. The starters were great, the second wave that came in maintained. One of the biggest challenges in a game, when you are ahead 61-22, is maintaining that standard and level of play. And while we may have dropped off towards the end, just to go through that process was good. The boys had such a good start and put on a good show with a pretty inexperienced group, they will walk away better for it. Playing international hoops, there is no substitute for just being on the floor and competing on the international stage, no matter who you are playing against. For that, everyone will be better off. We will walk away from this having achieved one of our goals in qualifying for the World Cup and to be able to do that is a good day.”
Henare and his team have enjoyed the new FIBA World Cup qualifying competition structure.
“It has helped that there is different pathway than just going through Australia to compete on the world stage. That has been the biggest change, which has been fantastic for our sport in New Zealand, the Tall Blacks, Basketball New Zealand, and just the exposure that we get now on a regular occasion is awesome. We are getting quality international experience and life experience too.”
Looking towards the FIBA World Cup in August, 2019, Henare says he’s relieved the team can now begin planning for the big stage – but that will need to be done on a tight budget.
“We are fighting tooth and nail for funding that will allow us to prepare as best we can for the World Cup, and that’s tough to do with the limited amount of funding that we get. So, everything will be planned out carefully with the balance of how much do we have in the kitty to spend, and who can host us, and are those teams going to give us good competition, and good camp time and things like that. Great to get it locked in now in December so we can have a good solid nine months of planning to put a plan together,” said Henare.
Mika Vukona and Tom Abercrombie dunks were the opening scores of the contest, setting the tone for a commanding 31-5 opening salvo in favour of the hosts.
The Tall Blacks domination continued in the second quarter granting Paul Henare the opportunity to introduce debutant Tyrell Harrison. The seven-foot centre, who plays for the Brisbane Bullets, became the twenty-first player to pull on the black singlet during the World Cup Qualifying campaign.
Abercrombie led all scorers at half-time with 15 points as New Zealand headed to the locker room ahead 61-22.
To their credit Syria produced a much-improved showing in the second half as the Tall Blacks gave extensive court time to their less experienced players.
As against Jordan on Thursday, it was an all-round team performance with every New Zealand player featuring on the scoresheet led by Abercrombie’s 15 points and 11 points each from Ethan Rusbatch and Alex Pledger.
Despite having away games to play in Jordan and Lebanon next February, the Tall Blacks staff and players can now pencil 31 August, the opening day of the 2019 FIBA World Cup. In all, 32 countries will compete at the World Cup, New Zealand joining Australia as early qualifiers from the Asia Zone.
NZ 97 – Abercrombie 15, Rusbatch 11, Pledger 11, Vukona 10, Loe 9, Harrison 8, Kenny 8, Ngatai 8, Perrott-Hunt 7, Vodanovich 7, Raukawa 2, Te Rangi 1
SYRIA 74 – T Aljabi 18, A Alhamwi 14, S Al Osh 11
MBO Tall Blacks to play Syria. FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, Window Five Round Two:
Tom Abercrombie. SKYCITY Breakers
Tyrell Harrison. Brisbane Bullets
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
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
Syria team to face Tall Blacks. FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, Window Five Round Two:
Abdulwahab Al Hamwi
Sharif Al Osh
Omar Cheikh Ali
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. Tall Blacks won 97-74
• 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.