Tall Blacks leave Japan on the upward curve

By Basketball New Zealand

If the Tall Blacks preparation for their upcoming Olympic Qualifying tournament is broken down into three components, then the first is complete with the end of a short but intensive four day visit to Japan with the second of two scrimmages against the host nation played out in Tokyo tonight.

The Paul Henare coached Tall Blacks will now head to China for a longer but no less busy six day stay that will feature five games at the Atlas Tournament near Shanghai, starting on Tuesday against Belarus before further group games against Japan and the hosts China.

For now though Head Coach Paul Henare is taking stock of a hectic and rigorous first few days in camp.

"This has been a fantastic experience for us, the hosting from Japan has been superb, we have not wanted for anything and the team has worked hard each and every day, including training on the mornings of our two scrimmages. The preparation has been near perfect and we have made good progress in such a short space of time.

"We had a bit of an open discussion among the group after watching the video from yesterday, there were some harsh messages given because we lacked effort - not that it was intentional, it was more players not knowing what was required at this level.

But to see that change in intensity and focus for much longer periods today was really pleasing."

All 14 players enjoyed good court time in the two scrimmages against Japan, including the four players who can be expected to make their debut appearances for the national team in China, with Finn Delany, Derone Raukawa, Ethan Rusbatch and Michael Karena finding their feet and making the job of the coaching staff to cut two players at the end of the China visit a tough one indeed.

"They have all impressed and every time they are on the floor they are contributing in a positive way. Each of them are making errors but that is to be expected with the rise in intensity, but each one of them has had opportunities to impact the game and they are all doing it well.

"I dont like to but if I was to single out a guy Mike Karena has been the surprise package for me, the physicality and inside presence that he is giving us right now - which is something that has been talked about in recent times. He has been doing that and is playing at a higher level right now than he was in the NBL. But while I single out Mike, all of them have done really well."

The team now travels to China on Monday.

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

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