2016 FIBA U18 Oceania Championships preview

Tom Fullarton | Credit: FIBA

The region’s best young talent will clash this week in Fiji, at the 2016 FIBA Under-18 Oceania Championships. The winner of the eight-team (seven on the men’s bracket) competition will punch their ticket to next year’s U19 World Championships in Egypt.

After winning gold in both the men and women’s tournaments two years ago, Australia will be hoping to defend their crowns. However, a lofty challenge from New Zealand awaits, as numerous Aussies that would have participated in the championships are currently in America playing college basketball.

FIBA will live stream every game from the event on their YouTube page, with the first slate of group stage contests starting 5 December, with the gold medal match on 10 December. The daily schedule is available via the official tournament website.


The favourites

Australia

Australia enters the tournament as the smart pick for the gold, as both the Emus and Gems bolster talent-heavy rosters.

For the Emus, they boast five Centre of Excellence athletes headline the team, including Angus Glover, Lat Nai, Kyle Zunic, Samson Froling and Tom Fullarton. Additionally, Matt Kenyon from the Brisbane Bullets will excuse himself from NBL commitments to represent Australia.

“I am very excited about this group and proud of the commitment and effort they have shown already,” Emus’ coach Adam Caporn said, via Basketball Australia.

“Every individual is clearly invested and passionate about upholding the ideals upon which great Australian teams have been built.”

For the Gems, they’ll bring across a winning roster. Eight of the 12 women representing Australia at the event were apart of this year’s U17 World Championships gold medal squad including Jazmin Shelley, Abby Cubillo, Monique Conti, Jasmine Simmons, Sam Simons, Kiera Rowe, Ezi Magbegor and Lara McSpadden.

After winning by an average margin of 93.3 points in 2014, the Gems will be searching for the same type of dominance this time around.

New Zealand

Just like two years ago, New Zealand will prove Australia’s toughest challenge in both the men and women’s tournaments.

This year’s Junior Tall Blacks squad will be one of the strongest ever put together, with rich historical bloodlines to New Zealand basketball flowing through the unit. Flynn and Tobias Cameron are the sons of Tall Black legend, Pero Cameron, while Dan Fotu is the younger brother of Tall Black Isaac. Additionally, Fotu also participated in the Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp alongside teammates Sam Waardenburg, Taane Samuel and Quinn Clinton.

“In their respective teams or schools, they are the leaders, they are the ones to make the big plays or carry their teams just about every time they step on the floor,” coach Daryl Cartwright said, via Basketball New Zealand.

“That brings a confidence that we need them to carry to the Oceania Championships. I feel we have genuine depth in the squad and every player has the ability to be a starter for us.”

For the Junior Tall Ferns, head coach Brent Matehaere is confident that his team can do everything possible to compete with the highly favoured Gems.

“Australia are for all intents and purposes a professional basketball team with 11 of them at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence where they train, attend school, train, and train some more while playing in the South East Australian Basketball League as a group,” Matehaere said, via Basketball New Zealand.

“The only way that we can think about competing with Australia is just that – compete with them for every possession, every loose ball, create disruption and then execute to the best of our ability on offense.

“The talent is really starting to come through and if the attitude held by this group of players continues into the future, then New Zealand will be really competitive when we take on the Asia qualification series in the years to come.”


The wild cards

Fiji

The host nation could throw a spanner in the works of Australia and New Zealand’s gold medal hopes.

The Fijians have been able to put together the strongest roster possible, something Basketball Fiji COO, Laisiasa Puamau, indicated would be a goal leading into the event.

“The national team managers are working very hard to identify the best players to represent Fiji in December,” Puamau said, via Basketball Fiji.

The two players tasked with leading the Fijians will be Colin Lal for the men and Tiyana Kainamoli for the women. Even though they remain unlikely to pull off a mighty upset of Australia or New Zealand, don’t expect Fiji to lay down in front of their hometown fans.


The best of the rest

Samoa

Who to watch:

Men: Robert Wayne Sio

Women: Linda Kelsall

Guam

Who to watch:

Men: Kobe Sotelo

Women: Brittany Meno

New Caledonia

Who to watch:

Men: Jeroboam Fenuafanote

Women: Cynderella Fanalupe

Tahiti

Who to watch:

Men: Hitirai Voirin

Women: Vainui Tehoiri

Papua New Guinea (women’s only)

Who to watch:

Normalisa Dobunaba and Tina Dobunaba


To view the 2016 FIBA U18 Oceania Championships schedule, click here.

Luke Sicari

Written by

Writer, producer at 1116 SEN | Media assistant at the West Coast Eagles | Sport Journalism Student at La Trobe

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