The New Zealand Tall Blacks have named their extended squad for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, with 11 NBL players being selected in the squad of 20.
Of the squad, 14 players will be selected to travel to a World Cup preparation camp in Japan, before the final 12 play in two warm-up games against Canada in Sydney, and eventually the World Cup.
The NBL players to make the cut include Shea Ili, Jarrod Kenny, Corey Webster, Tom Abercrombie, Jordan Ngatai, Reuben Te Rangi, Mika Vukona, Finn Delany, Tohi Smith-Milner, Rob Loe and Alex Pledger.
Coach Paul Henare is delighted at the quality and depth of players putting their hand up for final selection.
“Throughout this World Cup qualifying programme and even as far back as the 2017 Asia Cup we have looked to build our depth chart, at times by design and at times our hand was forced with player unavailability, but always in a positive way towards exposing more players to the Tall Blacks culture and having them ready to play on the international stage now or sometime in the future,” Henare said in the Basketball New Zealand press release.
“We have arguably the most amount of talent we have had across all positions that we have ever had. It is a very good place to be in with our international programme. It makes the final selection tougher and choosing the final team will not be easy, but that is a good problem for me as a coach and for the selection panel to have.
“In some respects, it has come around quick, but when you go back to the Asia Cup in 2017 and think how much has happened between now and then, it feels like it has taken some time. But seeing the number of players pull on the black singlet and represent New Zealand throughout the whole process has been very rewarding and we are at the stage now where we are very happy with the depth and talent that we have.”
Henare also believes the mix of talent and experience in the squad will hold the Tall Blacks in good stead.
“They (experienced players) are crucial, you can look throughout the list and we have multiple guys that have been to at least one if not two World Cups and Mika has been to three,” he said.
“That sort of experience is invaluable at this level and we will rely on that to help us get through the next phase and achieve our goals.
“We have a really good variety of talent across all positions. In the guards we have guys that can play multiple positions and it is the same with our bigs. We also have genuine size which is not something that Tall Black sides have had in the past. We will have genuine contenders and talent that will miss out on this team, that is a luxury to have, albeit a difficult one to manage when it comes time to making those final decisions.”
The list includes Oklahoma City Thunder centre Steven Adams but it is not a confirmation of his availability, rather it allows for those conversations to continue and for Adams to be available for selection to China if he does make that call.
“Basketball New Zealand has been in regular communication with Steve and his agency and management at OKC,” Henare said.
“We will look to conclude those conversations in the weeks ahead, but clearly Steve is a player we want wearing the black singlet.
“What he would bring to the team is international size, what he can do at the defensive end of the floor is phenomenal, with his ability to block and change shots and what he does from a rebounding perspective at both ends of the floor. That is something we have rarely had at our disposal is that genuine size and athleticism at that pivot spot. Obviously we would love to have him, but ultimately that decision comes down to Steve.”
MBO Tall Blacks Long List (final 12 for the World Cup will be chosen from this group)
Shea Ili (Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers)
Tai Webster (Galatasaray)
Jarrod Kenny (Bay Hawks/Cairns Taipans)
Corey Webster (NZ Breakers)
Ethan Rusbatch (Bay Hawks)
Taylor Britt (Canterbury Rams)
Kruz Perrott-Hunt (Nelson Giants)
Taine Murray (Rosmini College)
Tom Abercrombie (Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers)
Jordan Ngatai (Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers)
Reuben Te Rangi (Wellington Saints/Brisbane Bullets)
Dan Fotu (St Mary’s College of California)
Mika Vukona (Nelson Giants/Brisbane Bullets)
Finn Delany (FMP Belgrade/NZ Breakers)
Isaac Fotu (Ratiopharm Ulm)
Max Darling (Vrijednosnice Osijek)
Tom Vodanovich (Southland Sharks)
Yanni Wetzell (Vanderbilt University)
Tohi Smith-Milner (Melbourne United)
Rob Loe (Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers)
Alex Pledger (Southland Sharks/Melbourne United)
Steven Adams (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Tyrell Harrison (Nelson Giants/Brisbane Bullets)
Yuat Alok (University of Central Florida)
Sam Timmins (University of Washington)