Steven Adams missing as Tall Blacks embark on European tour
The New Zealand Tall Blacks have assembled what is arguably their strongest ever line-up to tour Europe and China before they face the NBA-talent filled Australian Boomers in the FIBA Oceania Series in Melbourne next month.
As a warm-up for the Oceania Series, the Tall Blacks head off on an exhibition tour of Europe, with matches against Great Britain, Croatia and Slovenia beginning July 25 in London. The Tall Blacks will also take part in the 2015 Stankovic Cup in China from August 3-8.
While the 14-man roster boasts a strong mix of youth and experience, athletic big man Steven Adams, who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA, was a notable omission from the touring squad.
Though Adams is not available for the upcoming tour, first-time Tall Blacks Coach Paul Hanare is hopeful he will still feature in the 12-man squad that faces Australia on August 15. Adams would be a valuable inclusion against the Aussies, with a berth in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games up for grabs for the winner of the Oceania Series.
Hanare said he continues to talk with the promising NBA Center about his involvement in the two-match series.
"Clearly he is a player we would love to have in our team, so he may yet come in ahead of the games against Aussie," Henare said.
“Our goal is very clear. The games on the way are all about preparing for Aussie in August.”
Regardless of Adams’ availability against Australia, the Tall Blacks will look to build momentum for the Oceania Series with a strong showing in Europe and China. While Hanare has selected a team boasting plenty of experience, he also praised his younger players after three days of trials in Auckland last week.
“One of the stand out features of the past few days has been the quality of the young players coming through and putting pressure on some of the established Tall Blacks,” further outlined Henare.
“We have an exciting generation of talent emerging. One that combined with some of our leaders makes for an exciting group to work with.”
Towering 17-year-old schoolboy Tai Wynyard is perhaps the most exciting front court prospect of that emerging generation. Wynyard, who last year became the Tall Blacks’ youngest debutant at 16 years old, will play for US College powerhouse the University of Kentucky next season.
Both Kentucky and the Tall Blacks have high hopes for Wynyard, who despite being a year younger than most players participating, was named the Most Valuable Player at the 3x3 U18 World Championships in Hungary last month, after leading New Zealand to the gold medal.
Wynyard is joined on the 14-man Tall Blacks roster by fellow emerging big men Isaac Fotu and Rob Loe, who both join the national team coming off strong seasons in Europe.
The emerging trio is joined by a strong contingent of players from the New Zealand Breakers, who won the 2014/15 Australian NBL Championship in March. The group includes an experienced core comprised of Tall Blacks captain Mika Vukona, athletic wing Tom Abercrombie, and leading scorer Corey Webster.
The experienced Tall Blacks leaders will look to form a cohesive unit with young Breakers Duane Bailey and Rueben Te Rangi, who join their club team mates on the Tall Blacks squad.
New Zealand Tall Blacks squad for European Tour
Thomas Abercrombie (SKYCITY Breakers), Duane Bailey (Southland Sharks), Everard Bartlett (Ballarat Miners), Isaac Fotu (La Bruixa d'Or Manresa), Leon Henry (Wellington Saints), Shea Ili (Southland Sharks), Jarrod Kenny (Hawke's Bay Hawks), Robert Loe (KAOD), Dion Prewster (Wellington Saints), Lindsay Tait (Wellington Saints), Reuben Te Rangi (SuperCity Rangers / SKYCITY Breakers), Mika Vukona (Nelson Giants / SKYCITY Breakers), Corey Webster (SKYCITY Breakers), Tai Wynyard (SuperCity Rangers / SKYCITY Breakers).
Tall Blacks 2015 Schedule
11-16 July – Preparation camp in Napier, New Zealand
19 July – Depart for Europe
25 July – vs Great Britain, Copperbox, London
29 July – vs Croatia
30 July – vs Slovenia
3-8 August – Stankovic Cup (China) vs China, Mexico & Venezuela
11-13 August – Training camp in Auckland
15 August – FIBA Oceania Series v Australia, Melbourne, Rod Laver Arena
18 August – FIBA Oceania Series, v Australia, Wellington