The Tall Blacks may now need Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams more than ever.

Paul Henare's New Zealand team will have a tough task to qualify for the second round at the 2019 Basketball World Cup in China, after being grouped with NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo's World No 8-ranked Greece.

The 'Greek Freak' Antetokounmpo, a MVP candidate for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA, has played 38 games, including 17 at major international Fiba tournaments, for Greece since making his debut in 2014.

The Tall Blacks may have their own star on court should Adams decide to end his self-imposed international hold out.

Giannis Antetokounmpo. Photo / Getty
Giannis Antetokounmpo. Photo / Getty

The Tall Blacks were also drawn to face No 12 Brazil and No 28 Montenegro in Group F during the ceremony in Shenzhen, China.

Brazil, who qualified through the Americas with a 9-3 record and will be appearing in their 18th World Cup, featuring Utah Jazz guard Raul Neto and Memphis Grizzlies forward Bruno Caboclo, along with former NBA players Leandro Barbosa, Anderson Varejao, Marcelo Huertas and Alex Garcia.

Montenegro, who qualified for their first World Cup appearance with a 7-5 record in Europe, can call on Orlando Magic centre Nikola Vucevic, while Greece, the 2006 beaten finalists playing in their eighth World Cup, will likely include former NBA centre Kosta Koufos after going through European qualifying 11-1.

NBA players have not participated in World Cup qualifiers as most international windows clash with the NBA regular season, therefore, it is not yet known which players will make themselves available for their national teams.

Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Photo / Getty
Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Photo / Getty

World No 38 New Zealand, the second seeds out of Asia qualifying with a 10-2 record, will play Brazil on September 1 in the first of three group games in Nanjing.

They face Montenegro on September 3 and Greece on September 5.

Should New Zealand finish in the top two, they would face teams from Group E - containing the USA, Czech Republic, Turkey and Japan - in the second round.

New Zealand, who have reached at least the last 16 in the last four World Cups, have not faced Brazil, Greece or Montenegro at a World Cup. However, they have faced Yugoslavia, which Montenegro was previously a part of, in the 1986 group stage and 2002 semifinals.



v Brazil, Sunday, September 1
v Montenegro, Tuesday, September 3
v Greece, Thursday, September 5


Group A (Beijing): Ivory Coast, Poland, Venezuela, China
Group B (Wuhan): Russia, Argentina, South Korea, Nigeria
Group C (Guangzhou): Spain, Iran, Puerto Rico, Tunisia
Group D (Foshan): Angola, Philippines, Italy, Serbia
Group E (Shanghai): Turkey, Czech Republic, USA, Japan
Group F (Nanjing): Greece, New Zealand, Brazil, Montenegro
Group G (Shenzhen): Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Jordan
Group H (Dongguan): Canada, Senegal, Lithuania, Australia