The Tall Blacks will depart from the Asia Cup on a losing note, but with their reputation enhanced.

An 80-71 defeat to South Korea saw the Tall Blacks finish in fourth place in their debut Asian campaign, an impressive result for a side missing arguably their six best players.

Led from the front by Shea Ili, who was named in the tournament's All-Star Five, the Tall Blacks also received strong showings from the likes of Reuben Te Rangi, Finn Delany, Sam Timmins and Tohi Smith-Milner.

With Ili (24) the only player from that quintet older than 22, the experience gained by the young squad will have had a significant impact on the depth of New Zealand basketball as World Cup and Olympic qualification looms.


Tall Blacks head coach Paul Henare was pleased with the accomplishments of his young charges.

"For me personally it's been one of the most enjoyable campaigns I've ever experienced as a Tall Black - player or coach," he told Radio Sport.

"Part of what this campaign was all about is giving the guys experience for if they're called upon for those windows and the windows that follow from there. We'll select the best possible team that's available at that time and start our journey for the World Cup in 2019."

That journey begins in November, where the Tall Blacks get a re-match against South Korea before travelling to face Hong Kong three days later.

China round out a reasonably challenging group, but with three of the pool's four teams making the next stage of qualifying, and eight World Cup spots up for grabs from the Asian confederation, the Tall Blacks should be heavily favoured to be featuring at the 2019 event.

All of the Tall Blacks' local players, and potentially their European standouts, are set to be available in November, with potentially only three or four of the Asia Cup group backing up for the World Cup qualifiers. However, Henare says their contributions to the Tall Blacks culture will be long-lasting.

"When the old boys come back into the group things will be slightly different. The energy and enthusiasm these guys brought to the black jersey is really infectious."

Locations for the World Cup qualifiers being played in New Zealand are yet to be confirmed, with Auckland, Wellington and Rotorua the early front-runners.