A Basketball New Zealand Mens Select Team departs for China tomorrow for a 10-day visit that will include four games against international opposition as Basketball New Zealand looks to further build on the depth in the mens game.
Tall Blacks Assistant Coach Pero Cameron will lead the coaching team, assisted by Michael Fitchett and Daryl Cartwright, in a tour that will expose another group of players (and coaches) to the rigors of international basketball and all the challenges that are presented when on the road.
"This is a great initiative from Basketball New Zealand and promises to be a great experience for this group of players," said Cameron. "Most of them have been chosen out of the New Zealand National League, recognizing their efforts in that competition and further strengthening the value of the NBL as part of the player pathway.
"We have also brought in some players with recent experience with the Tall Blacks, with five backing up some or all of the recent tour and Olympic Qualifying Tournament (BJ Anthony, Jordan Ngatai, Ethan Rusbatch, Derone Raukawa, Finn Delany). Their roles change significantly though, going from what was perhaps roles on the bench to being leaders in this group and getting significant game time."
The team will be captained by BJ Anthony, one of those who have just returned from the Philippines. It was his attitude and commitment to that environment that convinced management to offer him the captaincy in China.
In what is something of a redemption story after a testing few years with injury and off court issues, Anthony is proud and honoured to be asked to lead this team, admitting that he had been questioning his future in the sport prior to his recent call up to the Tall Blacks.
"Being asked to captain this team is a proud moment for me. The fact that the management team at the Tall Blacks see me in this light means a lot. Ever since I was asked if I would not only tour but take on the captaincy during the Tall Blacks tour it has been on my mind quite a bit - in a good way.
"I know I'll be fine but it has been on my mind to lead by example too. Watching Mika (Tall Blacks captain Mika Vukona) is a good way to see how to do that. There is no one better to watch in sport in that aspect of leadership. It's a good challenge for me and I'll be playing more with this team so it's exciting for it all to come together."
Anthonys recent strong commitment on the Tall Blacks tour already has him back in the minds of scouts and coaches for the upcoming Australian National Basketball League and at just 27 years of age, his best playing years are still ahead of him.
The team departs on Saturday night for China via Hong Kong and has three days of practice before playing four days out of five. Other teams at the tournament include Montenegro, Cameroon, and hosts, the Shenzhen Leopards.
Games will be played on July 20, 21, 22 and 24 with exact details as to the order of opposition not yet confirmed. Once that schedule and tip off times are confirmed it will be relayed to media in New Zealand.
Cameron however says that with the change for New Zealand (and all of Oceania) to the Asian region for future World Cup and Olympic qualification, building depth is vital.
"With the new system of FIBA windows at different times of the year it is likely that the Tall Blacks will need a larger player pool to call upon. This tour is both a perfect chance for some of the younger players to further their experience, but also for fringe players of any age to push for inclusion in those rosters over the next few years and to come into those games with some international experience to call upon."