This appears on philstar.com
Tall Blacks and good: A look at New Zealand’s OQT team
by rick olivares and david perez
Imagine if New Zealand had Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams in their line-up.
Nevertheless, the Tall Blacks, as New Zealand’s team is called, will remain a handful. Coached by Paul Henare who played for current Philippines head coach Tab Baldwin during the 2002 World Cup run, the Tall Blacks have a tactically sound coach who knows what it’s like to win. He’s guided the New Zealand Breakers to three Australian NBL titles in the last five years.
Henare will be assisted by Pero Cameron, another of those 2002 veterans who made that tournament’s Mythical Five selection alongside Germany’s Dirk Nowitski, China’s Yao Ming, Argentina’s Manu Ginobili, and Serbia’s Peja Stojakovic.
They will have at their disposal a 14-man pool that includes Tom Abercrombie (Pinar Karsiyaka in the Turkish League), BJ Anthony (Wellington Saints in the NBL), Everard Bartlett (Southland Sharks in the NBL), Finn Delany (Nelson Giants in the NBL), Isaac Fotu (CAI Zaragoza in the Liga ACB), Shea Ili (Wellington Saints in the NBL), Michael Karena (Canterbury Rams in the NBL and Wright State University in the US NCAA), Rob Loe (Limburg United in the Belgian League), Jordan Ngatai (Taranaki MountainAirs in the NBL), Derone Raukawa (Southland Sharks in NBL), Ethan Rusbatch (Canterbury Rams in the NBL), Mika Vukona (Supercity Rangers in the NBL), Corey Webster (Supercity Rangers in the NBL), and Tai Webster (Nebraska Cornhuskers in the US NCAA).
Notable players : Projected Starting 5.
PG : 6’ 4 Tai Webster- Tai just turned 21 a few weeks ago, While young Tai has extensive international experience (he led TB's in the 2012 OQT in scoring, started for TB's in 2014 WC vs USA etc), he's now leading the TB in minutes & assists. He’s improved his three-point shooting, is strong at finishing, and has a high learning curve.
SG: 6’2 Corey Webster is Tai’s 6 year older brother). Corey was voted top NZ player by FIBA for the 2014 World cup. A tremendous shooter, he’s had a number of high scoring games (25 plus pts) versus the Boomers, Team USA and Lithuania.
SF : 6’ 7” Thomas Abercombrie- the athletic small forward has been NZ's top forward since 2009. Second Leading scorer of the TB’s for the 2010 Worlds.
PF: 6’7” Mika Vukona (TB’s captain and most senior player at 34 yrs old), Mika is an excellent rebounder and defender in Pingris mode.
F- Center- 6’ 9” Isaac Fotu – The Spain league player was NZ’s best player for the TB’s vs the Boomers last year, matching up well vs Andrew Bogut. in the lead-up to FIBA Oceania he scored 34 pts against China’s frontline ( same team that beat Gilas in FIBA Asia), Issac is a versatile big, strong inside yet shoots the three well.
Tall Blacks 2016 OQT Schedule
7 June - assemble at Auckland, media opportunity 3pm to 4pm
8 June – depart for Japan. One week camp, including two closed door games against Japanese national team on 11 and 12 June (reports will be filed to New Zealand media).
13 June – depart for China and participation in the Atlas Tournament. This tournament is played at the Suzhou Sports Centre No 1131 Sanxiang Road, Jinchang District, Suzhou and the Dushu Lake Arena, 1 Cuiwei Street, Industrial Park, Suzhou.
14 June, 9:00pm v Belarus
15 June, 7:00pm v Japan
16 June, 7:00pm v China
18 June, 7:00pm and 9:00pm Qualification games
19 June, Finals – time TBC based on qualifying position
20 June – depart for Riga, Latvia
26 June, v Iran at Olympic Centre
27 June, v Latvia at Arena Riga
28 June – travel to Lithuania
29 June, 6:30pm v Lithuania, Svyturio Arena
30 June, travel to Manila for FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament
New Zealand is in Group B along with France and the Philippines for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila.