The Junior Tall Blacks wider squad (JTBs) is currently playing as guests in the Under 23 National Championships, but ultimately they are focused on one thing and one thing - earning a spot at the FIBA World Championships in 2017. To do this, they need to win the Oceania Championships in Fiji in December.
Head Coach Daryl Cartwright has just overseen the second of five camps to develop the Under 19 contenders competing for a final roster spot for that event. Cartwright says it won't be an easy task for him, and assistant coaches Leyton Haddleton and Gavin Briggs, to pick a team from such a talented bunch and in a short space of time.
"It is always difficult when you have to work within such short windows with the athletes. We need to get a lot out of them in a short period of time and sometimes it can be difficult to process all the information, but that is what we need because come December we will only have four or five days before playing in Fiji, and we will have to make adjustments in regards to what the opposing teams will throw at us. We have to be able to adapt and look at different options depending on the style and type of players we will face in the qualifiers.
"Some of the challenges we face include logistics and bringing players in from around the country. This group is from all over the country, from the South Island, the north, the central region and some from overseas. The group and type of people we bring in makes it less of an issue though, they know we have to come together and make the most of every minute we have. These guys know each other from other tournaments and teams, and all we ask of them is that they learn and soak up all they can. For us we must assess them on and off court in the time we have together."
There are many players who have been on the radar for some time, either coming through the Under 17 New Zealand team or having already played for the JTB's. Cartwright says new talent emerges every year, some with the ability to surprise coaches with their exceptional progress. Angus McWilliam is one of those players.
"Angus is one who has come in for the first time. He performed well at the Under 19 Nationals and our assistant coaches saw his form for Canterbury. He has not been on our radar so it is good to see new talent coming through, tournaments like the National Schools and Under 19's are crucial for that, players need to know that. Many of them are in this JTB cycle for two years and that can be a long time for a young athlete in their development. We are prepared to look at everyone if they are putting in the work with the association, schools and coaches. If they have that potential and are working hard, we want to look at them in this environment.
"It is important that schools and National Age Group programmes have a lot of focus, that is how we identify players. We might not get the opportunity to see them week in week out, but in tournament situations we need to see who puts their hands up for selection in a camp and for the JTB programme."
Cartwright is conscious of a bigger role that he and the other coaches and management staff play in developing these young men, not only for the immediate goal in Fiji this December, but also for their careers beyond the Junior Tall Black programme.
"It is exciting. It's a big responsibility too, there is so much at stake for these young athletes. For me as a coach I just want to see these guys get a shot at playing at a World Championship. We are trying to make history and beat Australia to qualify, that has not been done by a junior team before. But the future of the qualification series in Asia/Pacific means there will be more opportunities for players at this age group and more exposure to international opposition. Also, potentially these guys might be asked to step in in a year or two years for the Tall Blacks in their qualifying games. So for us it is about winning now, but also developing talent to be ready to step up into the next level in the future as well, and that means preparing them on and off court for those opportunities."
Junior Tall Blacks Wider Squad (Under 19 Men)
Joshua Aitcheson (Basketball Otago), Jack Ansell (Canterbury Basketball Association), Samson Aruwa (Basketball Auckland), Samuel Aruwa (Basketball Auckland), Quinn Clinton (Canterbury Basketball Association), Max Darling (Nelson Basketball Association), Matthew Dukes (Basketball Otago), Daniel Fotu (North Harbour Basketball), Michael Gardner (Waitakere West Auckland Basketball Inc.), Toby Gillooly (Canterbury Basketball Association), Sione Kuli Helu (Wellington Basketball Association), Brandon James (North Harbour Basketball), Corey Le'aupepe (Wellington Basketball Association), Isaac Letoa (North Harbour Basketball), Jordan Lindbom (Nelson Basketball Association), Hamish McDonald (Waikato Basketball Council), Callum McRae (Palmerston North Basketball Association), Angus McWilliam (Canterbury Basketball Association), Thane O'Leary (New Plymouth Basketball Association), Emmerson Potts-Broughton (New Plymouth Basketball Association), Taane Samuel (Wellington Basketball Association), Liam Thornton (North Harbour Basketball), Kaeleb Tyner-Wenman (Wellington Basketball Association), Sioeli Vaiangina (Counties-Manukau Basketball Association), Samuel Waardenburg (North Harbour Basketball), Tai Wynyard (Waitakere West Auckland Basketball Inc.)
Staff: Daryl Cartwright (Head Coach), Gavin Briggs (Assistant Coach), Leyton Haddleton (Assistant Coach), Dawn Chambers (Physio)