Tall Blacks head coach Paul Henare has named 14 players to assemble in Rotorua this week.

Rotorua's Energy Events Centre is hosting the vital FIBA World Cup Qualifier against Hong Kong on Thursday at 7pm and included in the 14-man squad is a strong hint at what the future might look like in the black singlet.

Jack Salt, 22, makes his much-anticipated return to the team, five years since his debut as a lighter and much less experienced teenager. The University of Virginia captain brings a genuine physical presence to the paint.

The guard line features a return for 19-year-old Isaac Letoa after his impressive first up showing at the FIBA Asia Cup last year. Letoa has since taken up his scholarship with Ivy League Dartmouth University and was one to impress at this week's trial in Wellington.


The selection that will have many googling for more information, however, is the rapid elevation of 17-year-old Rosmini College point guard Kruz Perrott-Hunt, with Henare impressed by the youngest of the 20 players at the camp.

"I had heard good things about Kruz and had seen him first hand on a few occasions when he came in to work out with us at the Breakers last season when we needed an extra training body.

"He showed us then that he had the personality and mental strength to mix it with much older and more experienced players, something that was again highlighted this week – on and off court he settled in quickly and was quick to understand what was expected of him," Henare said.

For every good news selection story, Henare appreciates someone must receive what can only be described as a "bad news call".

"These selections just emphasise our depth at the moment and the fact that last week in Wellington was a genuine trial. Sure, we were in preparation mode for the upcoming games, but we told the group right from the start that they were all in contention for inclusion in the 14.

"You feel for the players that have missed out and as coaches we made some very tough decisions that led to some equally tough conversations, but each and every one of them can hold their heads high and know that they will continue to contribute to the team in the future."

The team will be led by captain Mika Vukona and includes other experienced players such as Tom Abercrombie, Jarrod Kenny, Isaac Fotu, Rob Loe and Reuben Te Rangi. All are strong leaders and will play a significant role as New Zealand aims up at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Henare was optimistic about what the group could achieve and excited about the chance to play at home in front of two passionate crowds in Rotorua and Auckland.


"Any chance to pull on the black singlet is special, as a coaching and management group we go out of way to have our players understand the history and culture of this team, being a Tall Black is so much more than just putting the ball through a hoop.

Tall Blacks roster to play Hong Kong and China, June/July 2018
Shea Ili (NZ Breakers), Jarrod Kenny (Bay Hawks/Cairns Taipans), Dion Prewster (Bay Hawks), Isaac Letoa (Dartmouth University), Jordan Ngatai (Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers), Kruz Perrott-Hunt (Rosmini College).
Tom Abercrombie (NZ Breakers), Mika Vukona (Nelson Giants/Brisbane Bullets), Finn Delany (Nelson Giants/NZ Breakers), Tohi Smith-Milner (Nelson Giants/Melbourne United), Reuben Te Rangi (Southland Sharks/Brisbane Bullets) Isaac Fotu (Ratiopharm Ulm).
Jack Salt (University of Virginia), Rob Loe (Cairns Taipans).
Head Coach
Paul Henare
Assistant Coaches
Pero Cameron, Ross McMains, Michael Fitchett