Tall Blacks Mission accomplished.
The Tall Blacks return home with three valuable FIBA World Cup Qualifying victories safely secured from the Philippines.
As expected the passage in the two games against India was reasonably serene (101-46 and 95-60 victories) but the contest against the hosts in Manila had the look of a potential ‘banana skin’ given the youth and inexperience of the New Zealand squad. Even the name of the home stadium, the Araneta Coliseum, sounded rather foreboding.
The Filipinos were well in the contest early in the third quarter trailing 40-33 but the Kiwis dominated the remainder of the game to run out comfortable 88-63 victors – Prewster, Loe, Samuel and Vodanovich were outstanding.
The Philippine’s connection.
For Taane Samuel and Richie Rodger, making their Tall Blacks debut in the Philippines added an extra dimension to the thrill of the occasion given both players had two-year stints on basketball scholarships in the Philippines not that long ago.
Rodger, recently signed with the Taranaki Airs, played at the University of the East in 2019 and 2020.
Samuel, currently a Development Payer with the Brisbane Bullets attended De La Salle University.
“I just wanted to showcase what I can do because people didn’t really have faith in me when I was here and especially playing for La Salle, one of the biggest schools in the Philippines,” said Samuel post game.
“This game was big for me, It’s so exhilarating for me to play here again,” he added.
Loe and behold.
Unloved by the Breakers coaching staff Rob Loe demonstrated he still has game, compiling back-to-back-to back double doubles.
Having not featured in the last five Breakers games, with Dan Shamir appearing to have put his 101 game veteran out to pasture, the 30 year-old demonstrated his value in no uncertain terms.
He averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds and a couple of assists across the three games shooting the three-ball at a healthy 35% (6/17) and now has 530 points in 89 games for the Tall Blacks.
In addition to the afore mentioned Samuel and Rodger, Auckland Tuatara wing Taki Fahrensohn played all three games in Manila as did Bay Hawks forward Hyrum Harris. New Franklin Bulls signing Jayden Bezzant and Canterbury Rams guard Joe Cook-Green had two outings while Brayden Inger played the final game against India.
The Southland Sharks wing marked his debut by knocking down his only shot – a corner three!
Potency at point guard.
The accomplished performances of Canterbury Rams point guard Taylor Britt raises the question, has the men’s national team ever been blessed with such depth in this position?
Tai Webster, Shea Ili and Jarrod Kenny are all proven performers on the international stage and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa, who appears to be the next cab off the rank, is in sparkling form for South East Melbourne Phoenix.
Britt will probably have to bide his time before regular opportunities occur – perhaps trips away with the New Zealand 3×3 team to the Asia Cup and Commonwealth Games may be the 25 year-old’s next international assignments.
Not too many of the squad that went to the Philippines would make a full strength Tall Blacks 12 if named tomorrow but Tom Vodanovich and Dion Prewster, in particular, certainly enhanced their reputations.
Over the three games Vodanovich scored the most points (61) and was second highest in rebounds (24), assists (10) and steals (5). He also demonstrated his improved accuracy from the three-point line making a team high 9 from 17 at 53%.
Prewster, who captained the team in Manila, was reliability and composure personified playing a team high 89 minutes, averaging 5 assists per outing and rock solid on defence.
The fate of Korea?
South Korea failed to arrive in Manila citing a Covid case(s) in their camp prior to departure. Given they were the only team not to show up in the World Cup Qualifying window, that involved 79 national teams playing across four continents the chances are FIBA will come down harshly on them.
Although no official word has come from FIBA the fact that on their website the Asia Qualifiers Group A table shows Korea as disqualified is not a good omen for the South Korean administration in Seoul.
We’ll meet again…..
The Tall Blacks won’t have to wait long before locking horns again with India and the Philippines.
The draw for the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup pits New Zealand in Group D alongside Lebanon, India and the Philippines.
Postponed from last year the stand-alone Asia Cup will be held in Indonesia from July 12-24 with another World Cup qualifying window earlier that month.
Roll on July.