13 May 2024

Webster back in Tall Blacks for Olympic qualifiers

8:51 pm on 13 May 2024
Corey Webster in the Tall Blacks' match against Montenegro

Tall Black Corey Webster playing for New Zealand in 2019. Photo: Photosport / Jayne Russell

Tall Black Corey Webster has been recalled to represent New Zealand at the upcoming FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Greece - where a place at the Paris Olympics is on the line.

The 14 athletes in the Tall Blacks' extended squad for the Olympic Qualifiers are: Flynn Cameron, Finn Delany, Ben Gold, Hyrum Harris, Tyrell Harrison, Shea Ili, Izayah Le'Afa, Jordan Ngatai, Tyrell Harrison, Ethan Rusbatch, Reuben Te Rangi, Tom Vodanovich, Sam Waardenburg, Corey Webster and Yanni Wetzell.

The squad of 14 will first travel to Helsinki, Finland on 21 June to compete in a pair of friendly games against top-level European competition; facing world number 20 ranked Finland on 26 June, followed by world number 15 ranked Poland on 29 June.

Following this, a final Tall Blacks squad of 12 will travel to Piraeus, Greece from 2-7 July to participate in one of four Olympic Qualifying Tournaments being run by FIBA.

Joining New Zealand in this tournament will be opponents Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, Egypt and Dominican Republic - with the team who finishes first earning a ticket to the 2024 Olympic Games.

If the Tall Blacks are able to win this qualifying tournament, they would progress to the Olympics for the first time in 20 years; their last appearance coming at the Athens Games back in 2004.

Webster, who was a late withdrawal from last year's World Cup squad after missing a training camp, has seemingly settled any differences he had with Basketball New Zealand.

Webster has 93 Tall Blacks games under his belt - including two World Cup campaigns - and is a contender to crack the Centurion club by end of year.

The extended squad of 14 features a multitude of proven performers on the basketball world stage including eight core players who return from the World Cup team that competed in the Philippines where they secured entry into this Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

One of the Tall Blacks most experienced players Isaac Fotu has not been named in the extended squad.

Meanwhile the trio of Harrison, Rusbatch and Vodanovich all suited up for the Tall Blacks at the Asia Cup Qualifiers in February this year, while Waardenburg made his national team debut in last February against Saudi Arabia.

Even the youngest player in the extended squad, 21-year-old Ben Gold, has played six games in the black jersey for New Zealand.

Ili said that making an Olympic squad is something he has long aspired to.

"Our main goal is to try and make the Olympics and as a team we'll be going out to do our absolute best; for me the one thing I've always wanted in my career is go to an Olympics and do my family - and our country - proud.

"As a team we've always shown that we when we step foot on that court, we're capable of beating any opponent we're up against; but it's about taking that next step and being able to win the games we need to win to make it through."

Ili said the Tall Blacks will take on some tough competition at the Olympic Qualifiers in July.

"We'll be going up against some big powerhouses in Slovenia and Croatia in group play, and if we can make it through to the crossover we'll face Greece or another team. So we'll focus on being able to make it through and take that next step; we can't just be happy with playing well - we have to make it through to the next stage, do ourselves proud and make the Olympics."

New Zealand withdrew from the Olympic Qualifying Tournament for the Tokyo Games due to financial constraints.

Tall Blacks travelling squad of 14 - FIBA Olympic Qualifiers 2024

Flynn Cameron, Taranaki Airs / Melbourne United

Finn Delany, Casademont Zaragoza / BNZ Breakers

Ben Gold, Marquette University

Hyrum Harris, Hawkes Bay Hawks / Perth Wildcats

Tyrell Harrison, Southern Districts Spartans / Brisbane Bullets

Shea Ili, Geelong United / Melbourne United

Izayah Le'Afa, Wellington Saints / Sydney Kings

Jordan Ngatai, Hawkes Bay Hawks

Ethan Rusbatch, Franklin Bulls

Reuben Te Rangi, Auckland Tuatara / S.E. Melbourne Phoenix

Tom Vodanovich, Auckland Tuatara

Sam Waardenburg, Cairns Taipans

Corey Webster, Canterbury Rams / Perth Wildcats

Yanni Wetzell, Alba Berlin

Non-travelling reserves

Taylor Britt, Canterbury Rams

Dan Fotu, Nelson Giants / NZ Breakers

Sam Mennenga, AS Karditsas / NZ Breakers

Taine Murray, Virginia Cavaliers

Sam Timmins, Franklin Bulls / Sydney Kings

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