Tall Blacks prepare for next phase of Olympic preparation

By Basketball New Zealand

The Tall Blacks have taken stock over the past few days as they continue preparations for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila, enjoying some clear days of training without the added pressure of playing games after a whirlwind week of matches at the Atlas Challenge in China.

The team travelled to Europe the morning after winning third place in China and immediately set to work on a rigorous training regime that had them in the gym working on weights each morning, before another intensive work-out on the court in the afternoon.

Head Coach Paul Henare has enjoyed the chance to work more closely with the roster while in Riga, given much of the tour so far has been made up of games day after day.

"It has been good to get some work in on the practice floor but we have had to find a balance with the appropriate rest as well, with a few players coming down with minor illness and there are a few tired bodies as well. I thought todays session was a really good session, they got after it and we know move into another phase of games with good challenges in the teams we are playing in Iran, Latvia and Lithuania."

Henare is not concerned about the illness that has laid almost half the team low at some point in the past ten days.

"When you are together and doing so much travel and physically the guys are working hard as well you have these moments in any campaign, it doesnt seem too serious and while a few guys have taken a hit hopefully we have seen the last of it now before Manila."

Henare says the next four days present plenty of challenges, with games against Iran, Latvia and then Lithuania, but never will his team lose sight of the only goal on this trip.

"We have to still have our main focus as Manila but through these next three games we have to grow and learn as a team. We have used moments in game situations to introduce things on the fly, but we will ask the guys to compete as hard as they can and also try and win these games.

"I dont think we have progressed as well as I would have liked, but again the tired bodies and managing guys through trainings and getting them back to full health has ended up being the main focus at times, which is fine because we went them to be in the best shape possible to be able to improve. We took one session to freshen up yesterday and from todays session I felt we had progressed."

Henare says Iran present the toughest threat on the tour so far, with an all-round team that is well drilled and coming off a win at the Atlas Challenge in China.

"Iran are a very good side, they have genuine shooters and genuine bigs down low, and they play hard. This will be a tough battle for us, it will be interesting to see how we manage the way they play the game, with Haddadi in the middle they have some genuine size we will have to deal with so this will be a good test of how we deal with that physicality."

Aside from a few players still suffering from a mildly sore throat or head cold type symptoms, all will be available to suit up against Iran tomorrow at 6pm local time (3am Monday NZT).

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

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