Tall Blacks take on Japan behind closed doors

By Basketball New Zealand

The Tall Blacks first week on tour has gone smoothly thus far as they prepare to take on Japan in back to back live scrimmages this Saturday and Sunday.

Despite the fact the games are behind closed doors and will be more of an opposed practice than they will an actual game, Head Coach Paul Henare is looking forward to the first real test of the class of 2016 as they embark on the road that leads to Rio, with the qualifying tournament in the Philippines starting on July 5.

"This will be an interesting test for the team, to be thrown into a game situation so early in our preparation, when they are perhaps a little sore from what has been a tough week of training and for some of them their first experience at this level of the game. There is no doubt that they are feeling it this week, but our ultimate goal is Rio via winning the qualification tournament in Manila so the hard work has to be done now.

"While this is not an official game and we wont be wearing our Tall Blacks uniform, it is nonetheless four quarters of basketball, there will be a scoreboard and it will to all intents and purposes be run as a competitive game so it will be a good indication as to where we are at early in our preparation."

The team has wasted no time in getting busy with their preparation in Japan, practicing twice a day from the moment they touched down in the land of the rising sun, with the workouts designed to quickly get all players on the same page as far as fitness and playbooks are concerned.

Henare says time together is limited, so every practice must be targeted and focused.

"We are aiming to peak in Manila on July 6 for the qualifying tournament so all our planning has worked back from that date and while our tour and build up is a good one, we dont have a great deal of time to get things right so every practice and every day is vital.

"To that end this weekend we will train in the morning as usual and treat the scrimmage in the evening as our second session, so as I mentioned the players will have some tiredness to work through but that is as much a mental battle as it is physical and will be a good test of the group."

Henare says the chemistry is building, something that is always a strength of Tall Black teams.

"I sat down with Mika (Vukona) this morning and asked him what his thoughts were on the team and the fact we have a very experienced group and 4 or 5 players who are by contrast experiencing this for the first time. Mika said he likes what he is seeing, and he has pretty much done all there is to do in the game so if he likes the feel of the group, there must be something good going on.

"This week has certainly looked that way to me too, players are here for the right reasons and are showing they want to work for each other and are learning quickly what this singlet means to the game in New Zealand and to all who have worn it over many years. We have a long way to go, but this week has been a good start."

The Tall Blacks play Japan on both Saturday and Sunday, tip off 7pm NZT for both games. Game reports will be filed following both games including audio from the coaching staff and playing roster. There are no teleconference calls planned for these games, given they are live scrimmages and not recognized FIBA internationals, nor will they have any stats or box scores.

Tall Blacks Touring Party, name, club/s, position, height, age

Tom Abercrombie, Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir (Turksih League)/SKYCITY Breakers, Forward, 198cm, 29 years; BJ Anthony, Wellington Saints (NBL), Forward, 198cm, 28 years; Everard Bartlett, Southland Sharks (NBL), Guard, 193cm, 29 years; Finn Delany, Nelson Giants (NBL)/SKYCITY Breakers, Forward, 200cm, 20 years; Isaac Fotu, CAI Zaragoza (Liga ACB), Forward, 203cm, 22 years; Shea Ili, Wellington Saints (NBL)/SKYCITY Breakers (ANBL), Guard, 183cm, 23 years; Michael Karena, Canterbury Rams (NBL)/Wright State University (NCAA), Centre, 208cm, 22 years; Rob Loe, Limburg United (Belgian League), Centre, 211cm, 24 years; Jordan Ngatai, Taranaki MountainAirs (NBL), Forward, 195cm, 23 years; Derone Raukawa, Southland Sharks (NBL), 181cm, 21 years; Guard, Ethan Rusbatch, Canterbury Rams (NBL), Guard, 196cm, 23 years; Mika Vukona, Supercity Rangers (NBL)/SKYCITY Breakers (ANBL), Forward, 198cm, 34 years; Corey Webster, Supercity Rangers (NBL)/SKYCITY Breakers, Guard, 188cm, 27 years; Tai Webster, Nebraska Cornhuskers (NCAA), Guard, 193cm, 20 years.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand

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