Mika Vukona won't play at Basketball World Cup

10:31 am on 30 July 2019

The Tall Blacks will be without their longtime captain Mika Vukona for their upcoming World Cup campaign.

Tall Blacks captain Mika Vukona.


Vukona, 37, has failed to recover from a knee injury suffered during the National Basketball League and been ruled out of contention for the tournament in China in a month's time.

The Tall Blacks assemble in Auckland later this week before heading to Japan to begin their World Cup preparations.

It's not the news Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare wanted to hear.

"We have known for a couple of weeks that Mika was unlikely to get clearance to play, but we all know Mika and wanted to give him as much time as we could to understand full implications of the injury.

"Even knowing we were essentially left with no choice, it was one of the hardest calls I have had to make in my time coaching this team. Few if any others give what Mika has given to this national team over so many years, he is the heartbeat of our group and a leader on and off the court."

Henare said he'll try find a way to keep Vukona involved in the campaign.

"Mika's role extends to beyond his influence on court, he can and will still play a vital role in the build up, in working with the playing group, in particular the younger guys on the team.

"We will bring him into the Auckland camp and currently we are exploring options on when and where he can join us during the buildup, without compromising his rehab ahead of the NBL season with the Bullets," said Henare.

It is a blow for a man who is fiercely proud of the black singlet, but Vukona is playing down the situation with his teammates already top of mind.

"I guess I am still working through the news and while I am obviously disappointed, this is not about me, as always with the Tall Blacks it is about those that are selected to pull on the black singlet and I know the boys will do us proud. My job now is to help wherever and whenever I can in the buildup.

"This entire World Cup campaign has been all the more special given our qualifying pathway through Asia and the time that we have spent together during the windows," said Vukona. "The places we have gone, the situations we have faced and the games we have won have strengthened us as a team and as brothers."

New Zealand play Greece, Brazil and Montenegro in their group at the World Cup.