There's no easing into this weekend's national under-19 basketball champions for the Tauranga City men's team - confronting them first-up tomorrow at the QEII Youth Centre is the defending champions of the Wellington team and their giant 2.10m-tall centre Steven Adams.
Adams - the youngest of Olympic champion shotputter Valerie Adams' 17 full or half-siblings - has been identified as potentially the best player to ever come out of New Zealand basketball and is earmarked as a future NBA star.
He was the 2010 under-19 tournament MVP as his Wellington side cruised to victory.
Tauranga under-19 men's coach Steve Campbell, a legend of the New Zealand NBL, said they were going into the four-day tournament with their expectations racheted back to a realistic level.
"Okay, so we're probably not going to beat Wellington (tipoff at 9am tomorrow) with a guy like Steve Adams on the court - he's a phenomenal player who'll be operating at a different level than anyone else here.
"Up against your powerhouses like Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury it's less about winning and more about putting on a worthy performance but our focus is still to get a win, and then when we achieve that win we try and get two in a row. There's optimists and pessimists in the world but I'm a realist."
The tournament, which begins tomorrow and finishes with the championship finals late on Monday afternoon, brings together 22 teams - 12 male, 10 female - from a variety of associations.
Campbell's men's team qualified by grabbing the last spot at their zone 2 qualifying tournament behind Counties-Manukau and Waikato, while the Tauranga women were second in their qualifier.
Tauranga men are grouped with Wellington and Nelson in pool one and will have to win at least one of their pool games to have any chance of progressing to the championship quarterfinals. On the women's side of the draw Tauranga City is in pool one with Waitakere/West Auckland, Nelson, Hutt Valley and 2010 champions North Harbour, with the top two teams advancing direct to semifinals.
Rachel Gwerder will call the shots for the women's team, made up of players from Tauranga and Rotorua, and conceded they too were overwhelming underdogs.
"Due to the make-up of the team with players from two cities there's been an inability to train regularly. Playing the 2010 champions (North Harbour) first up, and then South Island winners Nelson next, it won't be easy in pool play.
"Realistically, if we can knock off a team or two in pool play we will be considered giant killers."
Gwerder's team is made up of Tauranga players Chelsea McQueen, Laura Kuka, Kelly Turei, Te Hiria Bennett and Ellen Pirere, who has moved to Tauranga from Melborne, and Rotorua's Te Kirikauri Pene, Whitney Winiata-Cairns and Pam Purdie.
Campbell, too, has benefited from some transtasman switcheroo, with Otumoetai College's Derone Raukawa, the son of former NBL player Andrew McKay, coming home from across the Tasman a couple of months ago.
"He's far and away our best player. Derone's been through the Aussie system and is a classy player. He's got no height but basketball is more about how big your heart is," said Campbell, who until recently held the record for NBL games player (315) for Auckland, Taranaki and Palmerston North.
He rates Dylan Wood as a player to watch and will likely give Otumoetai 16-year-old Alex Schipper the job of posting up against Adams tomorrow, with Schipper an impressive 2.04m.
Tauranga lineups
Under-19 men: Dylan Edwards, Keegan Aislabie, Alex Schipper, Dominic Nicholson, Ethan Smith, Caleb Mattison-Smith, Gino Antonio, Parakaia Davies, Dylan Wood, Derone Raukawa, Mitchell Erikson, Kolby Mackie. Coach: Steve Campbell, assistant coach: Peter Carter, manager: Graeme Kelly.
Under-19 women: Laura Kuka, Whitney Winiata-Cairns, Pamela Purdie, Ellen Pirere, Te Kirikauri Pene, Te Hiria Bennett, Chelsea McQueen, Kelly-Marie Turei. Coach: Rachel Gwerder, assistant coach: Mel Bennett, manager: Maine Mareko-Johnson.
Teams:

Men's pool 1: Wellington, Nelson, Tauranga City. Pool 2: Hibiscus Coast, Waikato, North Canterbury. Pool 3: Counties-Manukau Red, New Plymouth, North Harbour. Pool 4: Hawkes Bay, Canterbury Red, Waitakere West.
Women's pool 1: North Harbour, Waitakere West, Tauranga City, Nelson, Hutt Valley. Pool 2: Waikato, Hawkes Bay, Wellington, North Canterbury, Te Tai Tokerau.
Venues:
QE Youth Centre, Memorial Hall.
Schedule:
Pool play tomorrow, Saturday. Men's quarter-finals 4pm-7.30pm Saturday, Women's crossover games 9am-4pm Sunday. Semifinals 5.45pm/7.30pm Sunday.
Women's grand final: 4pm Monday. Men's grand final: 5.45pm Monday.