The MBO Tall Blacks have received a late boost with the inclusion of shooting guard Corey Webster for Monday's crucial FIBA World Cup Qualifying clash against Lebanon in Rotorua.
Webster had made himself unavailable for the early part of the window through personal reasons but has travelled to Rotorua and has been named in the 12 for Monday night’s game at the Energy Events Centre.
Head Coach Paul Henare says it was a decision that he and the coaching staff discussed at length, with Ethan Rusbatch being the unlucky player to make way for Webster.
“This was not an easy decision, but one we have made with the best interests of the team in mind. It no reflection on the way Ethan has carried himself these past two weeks. He continues to show that he belongs in international basketball and has taken this news with obvious disappointment, but equally with great composure and professionalism.
“Corey is a quality international basketballer though and brings all of his experience and scoring ability to the group as well as leadership as a senior player. He knows what is required to win big games and will relish the chance to have an impact tomorrow night. It is great to have him back with the group.”
Webster is thrilled to be back in black, but also spared a thought for Rusbatch.
“Ethan is a professional and sometimes it is the nature of sport that these things happen, but he is still part of the team and has accepted a role for this coming game and we keep moving forward as brothers. So yes, it is a happy time for me but frustrating for him, but he will be there supporting the boys and hopefully we can get him the win.
“It is always a great honour to pull on the black singlet, especially in front of our home fans. It is awesome to be around the boys and back in the family, I am looking forward to going out with the boys and getting a win.”
By his own admission, Webster is not a good spectator but the result in Beirut made watching from home a little easier.
“It makes it easier when we get a win, it is worse if you are watching and we are losing, and you know you could be out there helping the boys, but they did a great job over there and every win counts in these windows. I am proud of how they played and hopefully we can continue that tomorrow night.”
The game tips off at 7pm at the Energy Events Centre, with tickets available through www.ticketmaster.co.nz or on the door, with doors open at 6pm for the clash of the top two teams in Pool E in the final round of FIBA World Cup Qualifying.
FIBA World Cup Qualifying
Along with China and Korea, New Zealand has crossed over into Group E, carrying points from their earlier group with them (5 wins, 1 loss), and will play home and away games against Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Group F contains Australia, Iran, Philippines, Japan, Kazakhstan and Qatar.
The top three teams in each of the two final groups will qualify for China 2019, along with the best fourth placed team from the two final groups. Complicating the process is that China, as hosts of the World Cup, do not count in the final placings, but will continue to play out their remaining matches.
CLICK HERE for group standings and link to all remaining games
MBO Tall Blacks World Cup Qualifying
v Lebanon, September 17, Rotorua, 7pm tip off, tickets at www.ticketmaster.co.nz
Guards: Shea Ili, SKYCITY Breakers; Jarrod Kenny, Cairns Taipans; Ethan Rusbatch, Bay Hawks; Tai Webster, Galatasaray (Turkey). Forwards: Reuben Te Rangi, Brisbane Bullets; Dion Prewster, Bay Hawks; Jordan Ngatai, SKYCITY Breakers; Isaac Fotu, Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany); Finn Delany, SKYCITY Breakers; Mika Vukona, Brisbane Bullets.
Centres: Rob Loe, Cairns Taipans; Tohi Smith-Milner, Melbourne United
Head Coach: Paul Henare
Assistant Coaches: Pero Cameron, Mike Fitchett
Physiotherapist: Anousith Bouaaphone
Massage Therapist: Shelley Moana Hiha
Manager: Andrew Dewhurst
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. Tip off 7pm
- HOME: 29 Nov 2018 vs Jordan, Horncastle Arena, Christchurch
- HOME: 2 Dec 2018 vs Syria, TSB Bank Arena, Wellington
- 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) 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.
Watch the Tu Kaha webisode series on the Tall Blacks here.