Whenever the Tall Blacks get together, they talk about honouring the past, present and future. This week, head coach Paul Henare's focus was on the future when he visited Rotorua.

Henare spoke at Te Kura o te Koutu and Rotorua Boys' High School on Thursday, during a visit to Rotorua ahead of the Tall Blacks' World Cup qualifier against Lebanon on September 17 at the Energy Events Centre.

He told the Rotorua Boys' students that, providing the Tall Blacks qualify for the 2019 World Cup, their aim was to do well enough to qualify for the Olympics in 2020. He is one of few New Zealand basketballers to have played at the Olympics himself.

"For us to qualify for the Olympics, we have to finish higher than Australia in the World Cup.

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"That's our journey right now, there's an opportunity there," Henare said.

"I was lucky enough to play at two Olympic Games, the only two that the Tall Blacks have been to. We haven't been since 2004, so for me as the coach now, I want to try and create an opportunity for our players to experience an Olympic Games."

He spoke about the Tall Blacks haka, Tu Kaha O Pango Te Kahikatea, and what it means to the players.

"We needed a haka that was ours, that we can connect to and know why we're doing it. Tu Kaha O Pango Te Kahikatea is our strength in our black singlet and we talk about the kahikatea tree. It's not the biggest tree, but it never stands alone, you never just see one, you see 100.

"The other special thing about the kahikatea tree is it has an unbelievably deep, entwined root system, which creates a really solid foundation. So the relevance for our team is that for us as Tall Blacks, we're never the biggest team, never the tallest team, but we feel like we have an awesome foundation and we stand together."

Henare also spoke about the importance of the team honouring the past, present and future.

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"That's, first and foremost, what we speak about when we get together as the Tall Blacks.

"It's important to acknowledge those who have been before us and understand the battles and the journeys they went through to allow us to be able to play on the stage we do now.

"Honouring the present, we're trying to do the best that we can to honour the past and do all we can in this moment. Hopefully for the future, we've set up an environment and opportunities for you to be able to achieve some of your goals as well. We talk about that as a team."

Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare spoke to Rotorua Boys' High School students about what it takes to play basketball for New Zealand. Photo/Stephen Parker
Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare spoke to Rotorua Boys' High School students about what it takes to play basketball for New Zealand. Photo/Stephen Parker

He finished with a question and answer session before handing out five signed Tall Blacks singlets to players, selected by the Rotorua Boys' basketball coaches, who showed some of the attributes Henare had spoken about.

Henare said the aim of his visit was to spread the word about the Tall Blacks and what they were trying to achieve as a team.

"Hopefully it inspires some of these kids to do great things. It's also about promoting the fact that we're going to be back in town and we had such a good time last time we were here. We're for a big game against Lebanon, it's a massive game, it will be a different contest to the last one.

"We're extremely thankful to be able to come back here, I love being here in Rotorua. It's the people, it's all about the people, the welcome and people going out of their way to make sure we have a good experience."

He was pleased with the reaction he received from the students during his school visits.

"It's always a good gauge if they're asking questions, they're nodding, they're not fiddling or playing. They all seemed like they were listening - even if they all walk away with one thing that might help them on their journey, that'd be awesome."

Tall Blacks v Lebanon
Where: Energy Events Centre, Rotorua
When: 7pm, Monday, September 17
Tickets: www.ticketmaster.co.nz