Tall Blacks one win away from World Cup

6:15 am on 30 November 2018

The Tall Blacks can clinch their place at next year's Basketball World Cup this weekend. following a 95-69 win over Jordan in Christchurch last night.

The Tall Blacks eighth straight win means that a victory against Syria in Wellington this Sunday will guarantee them a place at next year's showpiece event in China.

Tall Black Mika Vukona in action against Jordan.


It was a complete team performance with all twelve New Zealand players featuring on the scoresheet led by Tom Abercrombie (18 points), Jordan Ngatai (17 points), Reuben Te Rangi (11 points) and Tom Vodanovich (11 points).

Shea Ili delayed his arrival at camp this week following the birth of his daughter on Monday. His short time in camp did not hinder as he went close to a double-double with 8 points and 9 assists.

Captain Mika Vukona led the rebounding count with 7 boards.

Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare was naturally delighted with the result.

"I'm really proud of this group, the way they play and play for each other, really getting after it terms of our intensity and physicality, particularly at the defensive end.

"Several guys were able to step up without several of our regular players, it was really pleasing to see and really pleasing to see we had production across the board."

Henare also had a special word for his two debutants Tom Vodanovich and Kruz Perrott-Hunt.

"I thought they both came out and played with a nice balance of poise and confidence. They showed that, although there is always room for improvement, they are more than comfortable out on the floor on the international stage."



Tom Abercrombie agreed with Henare's assessment.

"I was excited for them, it was great they got an opportunity out there. Kruz probably wasn't expecting to get out there that early, but as Pauli said they both played with a lot of confidence which you want to see out of them. They weren't shy of the moment and took their opportunities.

"These qualifying windows have tested our depth, but I think we have ticked that box that we do have guts ready to step up when needed and get the job done.

"The physicality and intensity was there for all four quarters tonight. It's always a challenge when you get a bit of a lead to play the right way and keep the foot down, and I thought we did a good job of that. No matter who came in they kept it rolling," Abercrombie added.

Henare admitted the growing depth that the Tall Blacks have creates some selection issues.

"The hardest selection will be when it gets around to hopefully World Cup time. With these FIBA windows we are limited in terms of availability of players especially with the US based players unavailable and others dealing with injury issues.

"Hopefully we can get this qualification wrapped up, and once we get to that stage when we have to choose 12 players to represent New Zealand, it's going to be a very difficult selection process. Even at every window we have to select a long list of twenty four players and even selecting that one right now is difficult."

Despite only being one win away from World Cup qualification Henare is not getting ahead of himself.

"Our record suggests we are doing well, but I think the bigger picture is the way that we have been able to integrate different players and younger players, and keep our experienced players like Tom (Abercrombie) and Mika (Vukona) involved. Combining that mixture has enabled us to maintain momentum and keep consistency in the way we are competing.

"We enjoy this one, we celebrate this one, but then get ready for another big game on Sunday. All these guys have put so much physical, mental and emotional energy and effort into getting us to this place right now, and the message to the group is that we are not quite there yet. Let's keep pushing and striving for greatness in terms of how we want to play. Sunday is just another step in that direction," added Henare.