The New Zealand mens and womens 3x3 basketball teams depart for China this Saturday to compete at the FIBA 3x3 World Championships, held 11 to 15 October in Guangzhou.
Head Coach Anthony Corbin says its a difficult event to win and the New Zealand mens team have an enormous challenge in Pool A, which features the three teams that stood on the podium in 2014 - reigning champions Qatar, silver medallists Serbia and bronze medallists Russia. Only the best two teams will advance to the quarter-finals.
"Yes, the mens team are in the pool of death, but we will go into every game to win. We just have to find a way to be competitive, play smart basketball, make money-ball decisions, stay in the game and control our emotions," says Corban.
Corban says the team has talent and experience, and he believes they could scalp the big seeds to progress through to the playoffs. Rory Fannon and Karl Noyer were in the New Zealand Mens team that were placed 12th at the FIBA 3x3 world championships in Moscow in 2014.
"Fannon will be our main post player. Hes a solid one-on-one defender with his back to the basket. Hes also a consistent low-post scorer and is a reliable mid-range jump shot shooter. Noyer is a consistent threat from the three point line as a shooting guard.
Both of those guys have just returned from China with the Auckland team that competed in the FIBA World Masters. Their experience will be crucial for the success of this team."
"Nicholas Fee was a stand-out performer at the Basketball New Zealand Under 23 Nationals as a combo guard. And I was really impressed the two times I saw him play at 3x3 tournaments. He will be leading the team as a scoring and organisational guard.
"Hamish Sheridan was also impressive during the Burger King Quest Tour with his Waikato University teammates that team made the semi-finals in Auckland during the World Tour Finals day. He is an athletic power forward."
The womens team will face the Netherlands, Ukraine, Poland and Indonesia. This looks to be an easier route to the playoffs, but Corban says its still tough.
"There is no such thing as an easy game at a FIBA World Championship. Our girls will have to be at the top of their game."
Corban has again selected on experience. Krystal Leger-Walker captained the New Zealand Under 18 3x3 team in Hungary last year and also captained the New Zealand Womens team to a silver medal finish in the Oceania Championships last year on the Gold Coast. Leger-Walker is currently playing Division 1 scholarship basketball at the University Of Northern Colorado and has been given permission to attend this world championship.
"Krystal performed well during the Burger King Tour and her previous experience in this 3x3 programme in 2015 is crucial for this team. Deena Franklin played with Leger-Walker and Breana Jones in the Oceania Championship last year, and her experiences from last year will be important. She played well enough to make the Tall Ferns team that competed in the Olympic Qualifying Series in France. She is a solid low post defender and can score consistently with her jump shot.
"Breana Jones impressed me last year on the Gold Coast. She had a great season playing in the Womens Basketball Championships this year with Auckland, and her outside shooting ability will stretch teams.
"Georgia Agnew has just returned from completing her Division One College scholarship in Utah. She is a super quick point guard with the ability to score off the dribble and hit open jump shots," says Corban.
Corban believes the potential is there, but how hard is it going to be to go all the way to the podium?
"Extremely. Like any FIBA 3x3 World Championship, its going to be tough playing outdoors in hot and humid conditions in a foreign country, and the other teams will be well-prepared. A lot of the European-based countries have played a number of the FIBA World Tour tournaments to prepare for this event. We are coming out of our NZ winter and heading into a summer event in China. The body clock and fitness levels are going to be challenged."
There will be 40 teams from 30 different countries playing, with China featuring a number of teams as part of their hosting rights.
This is the third FIBA 3x3 World Championships. Athens hosted the first event in 2012 and Russia the second in 2014. The United States womens teams won both editions, while Qatars men struck gold in 2014.
New Zealand 3x3 Womens Team
Georgia Agnew (Waikato Basketball), Deena Franklin (Harbour Basketball), Breana Jones (Counties Manukau Basketball Association), Krystal Leger-Walker (Waikato Basketball Council).
New Zealand 3x3 Mens Team
Rory Fannon (Harbour Basketball), Nicholas Fee (Waikato Basketball), Karl Noyer (Harbour Basketball), Hamish Sheridan (Waikato Basketball).
- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand