That Ethan Rusbatch has been named in the 12-man Tall Blacks squad to the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast next month isn't just an endorsement of the man's measure.

No, it also a big tick that new Taylor Corporation Hawks coach Zico Coronel has got his finger on the pulse in recruiting players for the New Zealand National Basketball League (NBL) this winter.

"Yes, he's done well," said an assured Rusbatch of Coronel, who is still signing up a couple of players in his debut season with the Hawke's Bay franchise team in the NBL.

Napier-born New Zealand coach Paul Henare yesterday named the former Canterbury Rams co-skipper in what is touted to be the strongest side to compete at a Commonwealth Games next month.


Last season's Hawks co-skipper, Jarrod Kenny, who also plies his trade for the Perth Wildcats in the ANBL, is also in Henare's equation.

"I try not to go in with too much confidence but I have to back myself," a delighted Rusbatch said from Christchurch.

The 25-year-old is in his third stint with the senior national men's team.

"It's my opportunity to showcase my skills and, of course, it's another chance to represent my country, which is always an honour."

Rusbatch considers himself "a glue guy" who can slot in for cohesiveness in a team.

For the swingman, it doesn't matter where he is, the mantra of keep toiling rings true.

"I think Paulie knows what kind of person I am and what kind of work ethics I have."

Rusbatch said it was always special occasion to have one's name noted and relayed nationally to represent the nation, mindful the fans would be watching players' every move on the court.


Countless people had helped him along the way, all the way back from his age-group days.

The goal in Gold Coast is a no brainer for a bloke who is going to his first Commonwealth Games.

"I just want to win a medal so that's the goal and that's what we all want to work towards because I think winning a medal at the Commonwealth Games is pretty cool."

Rusbatch was a Youth Olympian in his teens but suspected Gold Coast would be different and he would be ready.

Some of the New Zealand Tall Blacks after the team were announced for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Photo/Photosport
Some of the New Zealand Tall Blacks after the team were announced for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Photo/Photosport

He was looking forward to playing against newly signed Hawks import Angus Brandt who is a Boomer and who he has played against in a previous Asia Cup tourney.

"It'll be cool to play against them because they [Australia] are one of the strongest sides and favourites," he said but stressed Brandt was a centre and their paths wouldn't cross much on the court.

Rusbatch said the Tall Blacks had just as good a chance as any other team of returning home with gold.

The Kiwis will be without their three best regular players - Isaac Fotu, Corey Webster and Tai Webster - none were made available by their European sides - and the elusive Steven Adams, but the return of Mika Vukona and Tom Abercrombie gives the side an experienced core.

Breakers regulars Vukona, Abercrombie, Alex Pledger and Rob Loe will travel to the Gold Coast, where they will be joined by some of the standouts from the Asia Cup, such as Shea Ili, Reuben Te Rangi and Finn Delany.

Rounding out the 12 are point guards Kenny and Derone Raukawa, Rusbatch and Jordan Ngatai, and Melbourne United forward Tohi Smith-Milner.

Henare says he is happy with the amount of experience the group has cultivated over the past year.

"While some of this group are younger in years, they have all benefited from recent international basketball, through the 2017 Asia Cup when we took a very inexperienced team away, to recent New Zealand Select tours to China, and of course many were involved in recent FIBA World Cup qualifying windows," said Henare.

"Guys like Ethan, Derone and Tohi are young but bring the experience of that Asia Cup campaign to every team they play for, while others such as Shea, Finn, Jordan and our captain Reuben all benefited hugely from that experience and have a great understanding of the pressure they will face in the next few weeks."

The Tall Blacks appear the second strongest squad, behind Australia, who will be odds-on favourites for gold.

The pair are in Pool A alongside Nigeria and Canada, with the top two teams automatically progressing to the semifinals.

That will likely be Australia and New Zealand, with Canada set to send a development team, and Nigeria possessing former NBA player Ike Diogu, but otherwise selecting a largely local side.

The Tall Blacks' first game is against Nigeria on April 6.