Morgan Natanahira is in for an unforgettable season after New Zealand selectors named him in their trials squad yesterday.
The young forward and his HBS Bank Hawks captain, point guard Jarrod Kenny, were the only two players from the Hawke's Bay franchise to make the 17-strong squad in contention for 12 spots.
Hawks swingman Chris Daniel made himself unavailable in lieu of ankle surgery in Napier in a fortnight while forward Arthur Trousdell will be extremely disappointed, wondering what else he has to do to catch the selectors' eye after a stellar season with the losing Bartercard National Basketball League (NBL) grand finalists last weekend in Wellington.
Hawks coach Paul Henare said Daniel had been on the fringes for a while but obviously had some things he needed to work on for the selectors to give him a crack.
"Arthur has also been hard done by," the retired championship-winning New Zealand Breakers captain said of Trousdell, 30, who has made three previous national trials, including his first one as a 20-year-old, but has yet to don a Tall Black shirt.
The selectors have plumbed for 17-year-old high school pupils Isaac Fotu and Steven Adams to attend the trials in Auckland from Wednesday next week to be potentially in the mix to lock horns with Australia for a 2012 Olympic Games berth.
Tall Blacks coach Nenad Vucinic said of the teenagers: "It's a unique opportunity to bring them in and have them up against the big, experienced guys.
"It will be a great learning experience for them. However, they should know that everyone will be considered for selection."
Experienced campaigners such as Breakers star Kirk Penney, naturalised American Casey Frank, Lindsay Tait, Mika Vukona, Alex Pledger and Tom Abercrombie all competed at last year's world championship in Sydney, and Athens Olympian Mark Dickel will also trial.
Retired Pero Cameron and Phill Jones are glaring omissions from last year's world championship side while Craig Bradshaw is unavailable and ex-Hawk point guard Jeremy Kench is injured.
Henare said some people might be surprised why the selectors chose Natanahira but it was obvious the 20-year-old he lured from Auckland had made incremental improvements this winter and packed heaps of potential.
"There's not too many guys like Morgan in the country."
Henare had exposed Natanahira off the bench against the Saints and Waikato Piston hardmen and the young man had come off commendably each time.
While Kenny's selection was a no-brainer, considering the dearth of quality point guards he didn't think anyone's berth was a done deal, with Tait, Dickel and Mike Fitchett among the candidates.
"It's not going to be easy for Jarrod," he said of Kenny, a former international who kept a low profile after a crippling back injury on tour with the national team two years ago.
Like Henare, Daniel was delighted ex-Hawk and Auckland Pirate shooting guard Everard Bartlett had made the squad after missing out last year. The Hawks are likely to lure the Bay-born player here next season.
Daniel echoed the sentiments of Henare that, bar Penney, retired Jones and Hawk Paora Winitana, and Corey Baxter, scoring guards were in short supply.
Daniel said he had informed Tall Black trainer Claire Dallison during the NBL play-offs he was unavailable due to surgery.
"I'll be in a cast for about five weeks then in a moon boot for several weeks," he said, adding he would live in Nelson, to save money on accommodation and transport, with his parents.
His Australian girlfriend, Chenoa Threlfall, will go back to Cairns to earn a living before he heads off there to train with the Taipans as he has done in previous ANBL seasons.
"When the moon boot comes off I'll be hobbling around and I won't be even able to drive, so my parents will be able to take care of me," he said.
The Kiwis are building towards the Stankovic Cup tournament in China from August 5 to 10 and a Four Nations tournament follows on August 22-25 in Turkey against hosts Montenegro and Ukraine.
The three-match Olympic Oceania qualifying series against the Boomers, across the ditch, is from September 7 to 11.
Tall Blacks trialists: Tom Abercrombie (Waikato), Steven Adams (Wellington), Benny Anthony (Waikato), Everard Bartlett (Auckland), Mark Dickel (Southland), Michael Fitchett (Nelson), Isaac Fotu (NZ Breakers), Casey Frank (Wellington), Leon Henry (Wellington), Jarrod Kenny (Hawke's Bay), Morgan Natanahira (Hawke's Bay), Kirk Penney (NZ Breakers), Alex Pledger (Waikato), Lindsay Tait (Wellington), Jeremiah Trueman (Manawatu), Mika Vukona (Nelson), Corey Webster (Wellington).