Basketball: Young Tall Blacks squad head to China

Tall Blacks rookie Reuben Te Rangi. Photo / Getty Images.
Tall Blacks rookie Reuben Te Rangi. Photo / Getty Images.

Four newcomers - including three teenagers - have been called into the New Zealand basketball side for their upcoming tour of China.

With several senior players unavailable for a variety of reasons, including Kirk Penney, Steven Adams and ALex Pledger, coach Nenad Vucinic has taken the opportunity to blood new talent. He has brought rookies Reuben Te Rangi, Brook Ruscoe, Jack Salt and Izayah Mauriohooho Le'afa into the national men's team.

At 18, Te Rangi's selection caps a 12-month period that has seen him rise from Junior Tall Blacks captain to Breakers development player, an NBL title with the Southland Sharks, a full Breakers contract and now the New Zealand men's side.

Ruscoe, 22, was a 2010 Junior Tall Black and has played in the last two NBL finals, winning the 2012 title with the Auckland Pirates and finishing runner-up with Nelson Giants last weekend.

Salt, 17, is another to come through the Breakers' development pathway, helping Westlake Boys High School to a national title last year and starring for the New Zealand under-20s at the Australian state championships earlier this year.

Mauriohooho Le'afa is the real bolter in the mix. A member of the New Zealand under-18 team, he wasn't named for the Tall Blacks trials but made his way to Auckland this week on the recommendation of his Wellington Saints coach - and Tall Blacks assistant - Pero Cameron, who played much of his NBL career with dad George as a team-mate.

At 16, he may be the youngest player ever selected for the national men's team.
The Chinese tour is being used as preparation for next month's Oceania championship, a home-and-away series against Australia that gets underway on August 14 at the North Shore Events Centre.

New Zealand men's basketball squad to tour China: Tom Abercrombie (Breakers), BJ Anthony (Otago Nuggets), Everard Bartlett (Bay Hawks), Josh Bloxham (Nelson Giants), Casey Frank (Wellington Saints), Jarrod Kenny (Bay Hawks), Izayah Mauriohooho Le'afa (Wellington Saints), Brook Ruscoe (Nelson Giants), Jack Salt (Super City Rangers), Reuben Te Rangi (Southland Sharks/Breakers), Jeremiah Trueman (Manawatu Jets/Breakers), Mika Vukona (Nelson Giants/Breakers _ captain), Corey Webster (Wellington Saints/Breakers)

- APNZ

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