Category Archives: Tall Blacks

Paalvast gold plus plenty of other overseas news

Chev Paalvast strikes championship gold, Kalani Purcell with a triple double, an MVP performance from Jillian Harmon plus season best from Isaac Fotu.

Get the wrap on our Tall Ferns and Tall Placks overseas here:

At a Glance: Tall Blacks and Sky Sport Tall Ferns Abroad

Fotu and Venezia defeated in EuroCup

Umana Reyer Venezia fell 92-78 at Spanish club Joventut in the EuroCup on Tuesday. Isaac Fotu had a quiet night, playing just over 10 minutes the Tall Blacks forward grabbed 3 rebounds but was 0-3 shooting from the field.

Venezia, with a 1-2 record in the EuroCup are at home to Bahcesehir Koleji Istanbul next Wednesday. 

For further news on New Zealand player performances overseas click here:

Tyrell Harrison best of Kiwis abroad this week

With Tom Vodanovich and Telstar Hesperange having a bye in the Luxembourg League there are just three Tall Blacks performances to reflect on from the weekend

Isaac Fotu was one of just three Venezia players in double figures as they went down 90-72 in Italian League action. The power forward scored 11 points and secured 6 rebounds as Venezia slip to 2-1 at the start of the new season.

Nearer home Tyrell Harrison produced 14 points and 9 rebounds as Southern District Spartans concluded Queensland State League (QSL) regular season play with a loss at the hands of Brisbane Capitals. 

The Spartans conceded a cricket score to the Capitals going down 133-89 with a familiar foe, Jason Cadee, amassing 47 points for Brisbane!

Mika Vukona added 6 rebounds to 8 points for the Spartans who finished fourth on the QSL ladder with an 8-3 record ahead of the play-offs. 

One spot below the Spartans are Sunshine Coast Phoenix. The Phoenix have been well served by forward Jonathan Janssen who last season suited up for the Canterbury Rams. Janssen has averaged 16.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game during the regular season.

Tall Black overseas – latest wrap

Isaac Fotu in action for Venezia

Isaac Fotu and Venezia made it two from two in the Italian League after a comfortable 83-66 win against Cremona. Fotu was a perfect four from four from the field as he accumulated 11 points, one of five Venezia players in double figures.

It was tougher going in the EuroCup last night with Venezia outplayed in the second half by Partizan Belgrade. Venezia were ahead by one at half-time in the Serbian capital but eventually succumbed 95-73 – Venezia are 1-1 in Group A of the European competition and next face French club Bourg.

In Luxembourg Tom Vodanovich enjoyed another profitable outing adding 27 points to 8 rebounds but it was another heavy defeat for his club Telstar, defeated 86-64 at Esch.

Nearer home Tyrell Harrison logged 17 points and 7 rebounds as Southern District Spartans maintained second place on the Queensland State League ladder with an 86-66 win at USC Rip City.

Former Breakers guard Isaih Tuata scored 19 points for Rip City.

Tom Vodanovich scores 25 points on debut

Tom Vodanovich continued on from where he left off in the Sal’s NBL scoring 25 points on debut for Telstar Hesperange in the Luxembourg League.

The NBL’s Most Valuable Player shot 45% from beyond the three-point arc during the 2020 NBL season. He again demonstrated his improved shooting capability by making 5 from 8 from beyond the arc at the weekend as well as totalling 8 rebounds.

Unfortunately Vodanovich was the only Telstar player in double figures as they were smashed 102-56 at Racing Luxembourg.

Isaac Fotu played 15 minutes for Venezia as they opened their Italian League campaign with a solid 75-67 win against Brindisi.

Nearer home Mika Vukona produced 9 points and 7 rebounds as Southern District Spartans accounted for Sunshine Coast Phoenix 94-79. 

Fellow Tall Black Tyrell Harrison produced 14 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals as the Spartans remain second on the Queensland State League ladder with a 7-2 record.

Mika Vukona debuts in the QBL

Mika Vukona made his Queensland Basketball League (QBL) debut on Saturday helping Southern District Spartans to an 86-60 road win at Northside Wizards. 

Vukona hadn’t played since his NBL season with the Nelson Giants concluded in late July but he managed 26 minutes for the Spartans contributing 8p/10r/3a/4s.

Fellow Tall Black Tyrell Harrison produced 8 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks for the 5-1 Spartans that now sit second on the QBL ladder.

The Southern Districts Spartans women’s team were also in action at Northside Wizards and they were able to produce a similar score line to the men winning 89-66.

Natalie Taylor had 19 points and 8 rebounds for the Spartans. Last week the Tall Ferns guard was within an assist of a triple double – against the Wizards it was sister Kalani Purcell that threatened the triple as she finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists.

Like the men the Spartans women have a 5 wins, 1 loss record.

Ashleigh Karaitiana took her run of double-doubles to five with 25 points and 16 rebounds as RedCity Roar disposed of USC Rip City 90-79. Karaitiana had a monster 12 offensive rebounds in that tally of 16 boards. Former Tall Fern Karlene Kingi helped the Roar with 6 points and 4 rebounds.

Logan Thunder remain top of the QBL ladder with a 5-0 record after another huge win. Last week they won by 38 and 50 but on Saturday claimed an even bigger victory pulverizing the Sunshine Coast Phoenix 84-28.

Chevannah Paalvast, again in good form, added 8 rebounds to 15 points (7/11FG) for the Thunder.

Kiwis in college preview – NCAA Division I Men



Twenty New Zealand men are preparing for the upcoming  NCAA Division I basketball season. This number is up on last season when 17 Kiwis were on Div I scholarships and 33% more than the 15 that played the 2017/18 season.

Below we take a quick look at the twenty players that include Isaac Letoa, Dan Fotu, Kruz Perrott-Hunt, Sam Timmins and Izayah Mauriahooho-Le’afa who have all played for the Tall Blacks.


Matt Freeman (UC Santa Barbara)

Season 18/19 Games 32, Starts 0, Points 102 (3.3ppg), Rebounds 47 (1.5rpg)

Freeman has transferred from the University of Oklahoma, after playing 84 games for the Sooners, to UC Santa Barbara for his senior season where it is expected he will enjoy greater court time.

Freeman is one of five former Westlake Boys High School players on NCAA Division I scholarships.

Izayah Mauriahooho-Le’afa (Sacramento State University)

Season 18/19 Games 30, Starts 26, Points 265 (8.8ppg), Rebounds 90 (3.0rpg), Assists 78 (2.6apg)

The former St Pat’s, Wellington point guard enters his senior season with 89 games under his belt for the Hornets. Last season he was a finalist for the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Scored in double figures 11 times and 15+ on 8 occasions.

Played for the Tall Blacks as a 16-year old back in 2013.

Jackson Stent(Houston Baptist University)

Season 18/19 Games 29, Starts 0, Points 313 (3.1ppg), Rebounds 39 (1.3rpg)

After leaving Middleton Grange School Stent spent two years at Casper College. Last season was his first at Houston Baptist University where he played 29 games scoring a career high 12 points against Arlington Baptist.

Sam Timmins (University of Washington)

Season 18/19 Games 36, Starts 7, Points 265 (8.8ppg), Rebounds 78 (2.2rpg)

The former Otago Boys High School centre has made 101 appearances for the Huskies although his minutes last season (10.4mpg) were well down on 2017/18 when he logged 18 minutes per game.

Played as recently as 2017 for the Tall Blacks playing 12 internationals in total.

Yanni Wetzell (San Diego State University)

Season 18/19 Games 32, Starts 10, Points 190 (5.9ppg), Rebounds 122 (3.8rpg)

After playing all 32 games for Vanderbilt University last season Wetzell has transferred to San Diego State for his senior year. Recorded eight double figure scores last year including two 15 point hauls.

Played two years NCAA Division II at St Mary’s University, Texas before his season at Vanderbilt.



 Yuat Alok (University of Central Florida)

Season 18/19 Games 10, Starts 0, Points 33 (3.3ppg), Rebounds 25 (2.5rpg)

Alok has had a few moves since his time at Rangitoto College.  His latest is a shift to Central Florida after ending his stay at TCU in mid-season earlier this year following a broken hand. Prior to that he had been a highly touted prospect at Chipola Junior College where at one stage he was rated the #3 prospect by

Isaac Letoa (Dartmouth College)

Season 18/19 Games 10, Starts 0, Points 14 (1.4ppg), Rebounds 9 (0.9rpg)

The only Kiwi male at an Ivy League university Letoa played for the Tall Blacks as recently as 2018. He has received limited opportunities at Dartmouth playing just 26 games in two seasons to date.

Originally from Wellington Letoa was a standout point guard at Westlake Boys High.

Sam W

Sam Waardenburg (University of Miami)

Season 18/19 Games 32, Starts 11, Points 170 (5.3ppg), Rebounds 113 (3.5rpg), Assists 38 (1.2apg)

The rangy forward has prospered in his first two years with the Hurricanes in the tough ACC Conference playing a total of 53 games averaging 21 minutes per appearance. Played all 32 games last season scoring a career high 14 points in 37 minutes at Penn.

One of three ex Rangitoto College players in Men’s NCAA Division I basketball.



Tobias Cameron

 Flynn Cameron (DePaul University)

Season 18/19 Games 28, Starts 0, Points 5.1 (1.8ppg), Rebounds 30 (1.1rpg), Assists 21

Was a member of the Junior Tall Blacks team at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece.

Played 28 games for the Blue Demons in his freshman year.

Younger brother of Tobias Cameron.

 Tobias Cameron (Abilene Christian University)

Season 18/19 Games 23, Starts 0, Points 19 (0.8ppg), Rebounds 18 (0.8rpg)

The older of the Cameron brothers, father Cameron is Kiwi basketball legend Pero Cameron.

Will be looking to gain more court time for the Wildcats in his second season with after averaging just under four minutes per game in 2018/19.

Quinn Clinton (St Mary’s College, California)

Season 18/19 Games 22, Starts 0, Points 21 (1.0ppg)


The former Christchurch Boys High and New Zealand age-group star got little opportunity for the Gaels last season. Hopefully more to come from the sweet shooting guard in 2019/20.

Takiula Fahrensohn (University of Portland)

Season 18/19 Games 15, Starts 0, Points 19 (1.3ppg)

Out of Auckland Grammar School, Portland Assistant Coach Ben Johnson is anticipating a good season from the former Junior Tall Black. “Taki has put on a few pounds and can really shoot the ball.”

Dan Fotu (St Mary’s College, California)

Season 18/19 Games 34, Starts 4, Points 96 (2.8ppg), Rebounds 88 (2.6rpg)

Did well in his first season appearing in all 34 games for the Gaels and made the most starts for a St Mary’s freshman since 2010/11. Scored a season high 16 points against Cal Berkeley.

The former Rangitoto College wing made his Tall Blacks debut in 2018.

Callum McRae (University of California, Riverside)

Season 18/19 Games 32, Starts 17, Points 243 (7.6ppg), Rebounds 154 (4.8rpg)

The former Palmerston North Boys High centre enjoyed an outstanding freshman season for the Highlanders. McRae led the team in rebounds (4.8 per game) and field goal percentage (55.4%).

Scored a career high 20 points and corralled a career best 14 rebounds against  CSUN in February – produced four double-double performances during the season.

Angus McWilliam (University of California, Riverside)

Season 18/19 Games 2, Starts 0, Points 0, Rebounds 3 (1.5rpg)

The former Middleton Grange High School and Junior Tall Black forward has transferred from TCU and in accordance with NCAA rules will redshirt the 2019/20 season.

Played for the Junior Tall Blacks at the 2017 FIBA World Cup.



De geest

 Max de Geest (Long Beach State University)

de Geest spent his final high school years at Christ’s College, Christchurch after movingfrom Waitaki Boys High in Year 11.

He was a Breakers Development Player on 2018/19 and a member of the Junior Tall Blacks team at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece. In addition played in Buenos Aires at the Youth Olympic Games.

James Moors (Colorado State University)

A Westlake Boys High School standout. Was a member of the Junior Tall Blacks team at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece and also played in Buenos Aires at the Youth Olympic Games.

 Kruz Perrott-Hunt (University of South Dakota)

 The former Rosmini College guardwas a Breakers Development Player on 2018/19 and a member of the Junior Tall Blacks team at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece.

Made his Tall Blacks debut against Jordan in the Asia World Cup Qualifier in 2018.

Anzac Rissetto (University of North Carolina at Charlotte)

Rissetto played his last two high school years at Auckland Grammar School. Represented New Zealand at the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup in Argentina where the starting centre averaged 6.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Recruited to Charlotte by NZU17 Head Coach Aaron Fearne.

Harrison Young (Texas Christian University)

After completing his studies at Kings College, Auckland he spent two years at Impact Academy in Sarasota, Florida.

The least heralded of the New Zealand Division I players, Young played representative basketball for Auckland during his time at Kings.

Melbourne – the basketball capital of New Zealand?


Plenty of Kiwis in Melbourne United uniforms this season.

Melbourne is now the basketball capital of New Zealand!

Well the notion is not as daft as it sounds if looked at from a Kiwi professional players and coaches angle.

A Tall Black, three Tall Ferns and two highly regarded Kiwi coaches have added to the New Zealand basketball migration to the Victorian capital in recent months.

Shea Ili, who was a standout at the recent FIBA World Cup where he averaged 10.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, has left the Breakers to link up with Melbourne United.

Ili’s move takes the Tall Blacks player count at United to three with Alex Pledger and Tohi Smith-Milner also on the roster of the 2018 NBL champions.

Also winging into Melbourne immediately after the World Cup was Ross McMains. Less heralded than the move of Ili, it is still significant given that the 30 year-old, who grew up on Waiheke Island, has moved from a video analyst role with the New York Knicks in the NBA to link up with Dean Vickerman as an assistant coach.

If we grant Vickerman honoury New Zealand citizenship, after all he was a decade at the Breakers, that’s a handy Kiwi triumvirate when we add Paul Henare to the mix.

And that’s not the end of the coaching slide across the ditch. Long time Breakers assistant Judd Flavell took up an assistant’s position with NBL expansion club South East Melbourne Phoenix at the end of the last NBL season.

There is an even greater preponderance of Tall Ferns in Melbourne although the three Tall Ferns that have joined the Melbourne Boomers this season have transferred from other Women’s National Basketball League clubs.


Stella Beck has moved south after a rookie pro season with Townsville Fire, Toni Farnworth east after almost a decade in Perth and Penina Davidson has made the shorter trip from Adelaide to wear the purple and yellow of the Boomers.

That takes the New Zealand playing contingent at the Boomers to four as Kalani Purcell has played the last two seasons for the club.

Include the fact that former Tall Ferns coach Kennedy Kereama is on the coaching staff it means there are almost as many Kiwi accents as Australian in the Boomers team meetings.

Those meetings chaired by Guy Molloy, the Tall Ferns Head Coach.

Add the likes of Commonwealth Games bronze medalists Josie Stockill and Jess Bygate who are playing State League basketball in Melbourne and you can see why the city that is often described as the sporting capital of Australia could, also be called the basketball capital of New Zealand.

New Zealand senior international players and coaches based in Melbourne:

Australian NBL

Melbourne United:

Players – Shea Ili, Alex Pledger, Tohi Smith-Milner

Coaching staff – Paul Henare, Ross McMains

SE Melbourne Phoenix:

Coaching staff – Judd Flavell


Australian WNBL

Melbourne Boomers:

Players – Stella Beck, Penina Davidson, Toni Farnworth, Kalani Purcell

Coaching staff – Judd Flavell


Big V League

Sunbury Jets:

Players – Jacinta Beckley, Josie Stockill



Waverley Falcons:

Player – Jess Bygate

Taine Murray named to Tall Blacks


Instead of fronting up for form period on Monday morning at Rosmini College, Taine Murray will be boarding a plane at Auckland airport bound for Japan.

Still only a year 12 student Murray is the bolter in Paul Henare’s 14 man pr-World Cup squad announced on Sunday.

“Taine has impressed us all these past few days and quite simply played his way into the 14,” said Henare. “He has a composure beyond his years and is going to develop into a very good player, but already at 17 has shown that he feels at home at this level.”

Murray was a little lost for words when he heard his name read out by Henare in the team meeting this morning.

“Hearing my name called was extremely humbling and I am so grateful for the opportunity that lays before me. It has been amazing learning from some of the finest players and coaches that New Zealand has to offer during the course of the camp, and I am just so excited for the next few weeks.”

The MBO (may-bo) Tall Blacks team to tour Japan and continue preparation for the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup has been named, with Head Coach Paul Henare inking in 14 players from the selection camp in Auckland.

The 14 will travel to take part in a 9-day camp in Japan, including two games against their hosts, before then heading to Sydney to take on Canada. It is following those two games on August 20 and 21 that the final 12 for the World Cup will be named.

The team is led by veterans in the likes of Tom Abercrombie playing his third World Cup, while Jarrod Kenny, Corey Webster, Tai Webster, Alex Pledger, Rob Loe and Isaac Fotu are all attending their second World Cup tournament.

Finn Delany, Shea Ili, Jordan Ngatai, Tohi Smith-Milner and Ethan Rusbatch have featured heavily for the Tall Blacks and New Zealand Select over the past four years as the programme under Henare went about building depth across all positions.

Henare is delighted with the balance and depth in the roster.

“We have chosen a combination of players that complement each other on and off the floor. They understand what we stand for and what we are looking to achieve in China and will do anything for each other.

“A number of our decisions were very tough, with our final selection meeting going long into the night last night. That is testament to that depth we are developing, that a number of players will rightly feel unlucky not to have made the 14 today, but their time will come in the black singlet.

“We believe we have a balanced group of players, a group that is young in age but long in experience and understands the pressure we will face in the weeks ahead and the opportunity that is in front of them. Our focus is now solely on being ready to face Brazil on September 1st, we have a lot of work to do but can’t wait.”

The younger generation are led in the 14 by the likes of Tom Vodanovich on the back of a strong Sal’s NBL campaign and in particular by Rosmini schoolboy Taine Murray, clearly the bolter in the roster at this point after impressing Henare during the camp in Auckland, and while playing for his college team.

Murray is just one of many youngsters to have featured this weekend, with Henare keen to highlight the six unlucky players who average just 20 years of age.

“While the focus today is on the 14 who will move on to Japan and Australia, as a coaching and management team we have been hugely impressed by the entire group. The future of the game is in great hands with the likes of Kruz (18 years), Sam (22), Max (18), Tyrell (20), Hyrum (23) and Taylor (23) waiting in the wings, they are all tremendously talented players and impressive young men who all have great careers ahead of them, I can’t wait to see them back in the black singlet in the near future.”

Tom Abercrombie is one of the ‘young’ veterans in the team at 32 and attending his third World Cup, he will be amongst the leaders in the team and is excited for what the next five weeks holds.

“Being in the Tall Blacks environment is always energizing, I love being a part of this team and there is an added edge for a World Cup campaign, we have seen and felt that already these past few days. Of course, we will miss Mika and Reuben, that has been well documented this week, but today is about the players named and I am excited to be a part of a team that can’t wait to roll up our sleeves and in typical Tall Blacks fashion take on the world and look to upset the odds along the way.”

MBO Tall Blacks 14 to travel to Japan and Australia

Guards: Shea Ili, Wellington Saints/Melbourne United; Jarrod Kenny, Bay Hawk’s/Cairns Taipans; Tai Webster, Galatasaray; Corey Webster, NZ Breakers; Taine Murray, Rosmini College; Ethan Rusbatch, Bay Hawks;

Small Forwards: Tom Abercrombie, Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers; Jordan Ngatai, Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers; Tom Vodanovich, Southland Sharks/NZ Breakers;

Power Forwards: Isaac Fotu, Universo Treviso; Finn Delany, Nelson Giants/NZ Breakers;

Centres: Alex Pledger, Southland Sharks/Melbourne United; Rob Loe, Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers; Tohi Smith-Milner, Melbourne United;

Head Coach: Paul Henare
Assistant Coach: Pero Cameron
Assistant Coach: Ross McMains
Physiotherapist: Anousith Bouaaphone
Massage Therapist: Shelley Moana-Hiha
Doctor: Hamish Osborne
Manager: Andrew Dewhurst

News on Kiwis playing in Europe

Jillian Harman posted an impressive 20 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals as Ragusa rounded out the Italian League regular season with a 96-78 victory against Torino. The Tall Ferns forward has been a standout for Ragusa averaging 15.7 points and 8.4 rebounds across 20 games.

Ragusa finished third on the Serie A ladder with a 16-4 record ahead of the play-offs.

2018 Tall Fern Jacinta Beckley is averaging 8.1 points and 2.6 rebounds in her first professional season playing for Ujbuda in the Hungarian League. Ujbuda have struggled this season winning just four of twenty-one games and sitting 11thof 12 teams on the Hungarian League ladder.

Beckley will link up with former Tall Ferns coach Kennedy Kereama at Sunbury Jets in Melbourne when the Hungarian League concludes. The Jets will be looking to defend their Big V League title.

Galatasaray are up to fifth in the Turkish League after defeating Besiktas 93-87. Tai Webster scored 18 points (3/4 3PG) and added 7 rebounds, 4 assists and a couple of steals. Galatasaray have a 12-8 record with seven rounds left in the regular season and a top eight play-off spot appearing likely. Webster is averaging 11.6 points and 4 assists in Turkish League games.

In Germany Isaac Fotu is back on court for Ratiopharm Ulm after a two month injury lay-off. The Tall Blacks forward played just 4 minutes, scoring 3 points, as Ulm beat Crailsheim 99-87. They sit seventh on the German League standings with a 12-11 record – a cluster of four teams are at 12-12 in a congested race for the play-offs.

Max Darling has scored 21 and 17 in consecutive games for Osijek in the Croatian League. In the last outing he added 10 rebounds to his 21 points (6/7FG) for his first double-double of the season. Osijek sit equal 5thon the Croatian Premier League table with a 9-9 record.

Tony Tolovae is enjoying a good season in Norway ahead of his return to the Canterbury Rams. Playing for Gimle BBK Bergen he is averaging 16.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Gimle overcame Baerum 78-64 in the semi-final opener with Tolovae making 7 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

Maxim Stevens contributed 7 points and 4 rebounds for Kronberg in its 90-76 win against Stuttgart in the German Regional South-West League. The NZ Under 18 representative is averaging 6.3 points and 4.6 rebounds for Kronberg.