Basketball New Zealand has appointed the coaches that will lead the New Zealand Under 17 and Under 16 National teams.
The Head Coach role for the New Zealand Under 17 Boys team has been reappointed to Michael Fitchett, who says he has "unfinished business" with Australia. Coach Fitchett was at the helm in 2015 when the Under 17 team was narrowly defeated by Australia in the final of the Oceania Championships, which meant they just missed qualification for the 2016 FIBA World Championships. Coach Fitchett says he has already begun preparations for the 2017 FIBA Asian Championships, where New Zealand will need to come in the top four to qualify for the 2018 FIBA World Championships.
"We will put in a preparation campaign to make sure we have a great build up and have the best chance to succeed at the Asian Champs. A major focus will be on getting great games in the build-up, which is something we didn't have in 2015."
Fitchett will be balancing his Under 17s role with his job as Assistant Coach for the Breakers, a mix that he says will add pressure, but he's confident they will be well balanced.
"We will hold camps and trials during the ANBL season and then look to really ramp up the programme once the ANBL season is complete. I will lean on local coaches to continue to prepare the players during the months that we cannot hold camps, and the players will have individual skill and conditioning plans to work on throughout the summer. I certainly believe that the advantages to the programme of me being able to work and develop alongside Breakers and Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare, as well as assistant coach Judd Flavell, outweigh any disadvantages that may arise from my busy schedule with the Breakers."
Both are elite teams and Fitchett says there are some common themes when coaching at junior and professional level, but overall they required different styles.
"Coaching juniors requires much more focus on skill development, and teaching offensive and defensive execution. With senior players, training becomes much more about fine tuning game plans and ensuring the players are physically ready to play come game time. Expectations on senior players are obviously a little higher, as they are full time professionals. Junior players have more leeway to make errors while they learn the game. Players at both levels are expected to play and train with great intensity, and I will be demanding in this area with the Under 17 team.
"Junior basketball is in a good state at the moment. The top tier of players are getting good opportunities both in New Zealand and in the U.S. The skill level of our junior players is increasing every year. In general, our junior players do not play with great intensity on a consistent basis, nor do we commit to playing defence hard at all times. These are areas that I hope will improve with the exposure to more international basketball through the Asian Championships and hopefully the World Championships."
Coach Fitchett will be supported by Assistant Coaches Dave Bublitz and Ben Sheat.
North Harbours Jody Cameron has been reappointed to the Head Coach role of the New Zealand Under 17 Girls team.
Coach Cameron has already had a strong career as an athlete. She has represented New Zealand in Basketball, Netball and Touch Rugby. The former Tall Fern says she's driven to continue coaching some of New Zealand's best young talent.
"NZ Junior basketball is flourishing. We have a good pool of players coming up that are representing the country well, especially with such a demanding life schedule for our young adults. Associations are doing their part, lifting the level of quality to the representative programmes, therefore producing a larger group of talent to pick from. The current Junior Tall Ferns series against China played highlights the calibre of how well we are preforming on the international level.
"After last year's appointment to head coach I feel I have learnt from the experience, taking away valuable knowledge and a better understanding of the programme, and the level of commitment involved. Losing to Australia was a very disappointing result, so I reapplied for the role to see if I could do better by the athletes, and also to see if I really have the goods to coach on an international platform, to do a better job of getting it done. Representing the country is an honour and I love the challenge."
Coach Cameron will be supported by Assistant Coaches Lori McDaniel and Gina Farmer. McDaniel also assisted Cameron earlier this year with the Women's New Zealand Select Team, while Farmer and Cameron were teammates in the Tall Ferns.