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New Zealand look for players to gain vital experience at FIBA Asia Cup

AUCKLAND (FIBA Asia Cup 2017) - New Zealand are planning to take an inexperienced but talented squad with a lot of potential to compete at the FIBA Asia Cup 2017 in Beirut.

The Tall Blacks, in a race against time to be ready for their debut appearance in the event, are on tour in China now with a New Zealand Select and most members of that team, if not all, stand a good chance of representing the country in Lebanon in several weeks.

Philippines v New Zealand, FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Manila - Mall of Asia Arena (Philippines), Group Phase, 6 July 2016
The Kiwis, who played at the last year's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in the Philippines, are going to Beirut with one eye on the FIBA Basketball World Cup Asia Qualifiers, which tip off in November.

"After some considerable thought and many conversations, I have decided – with the blessing of Basketball New Zealand - to name a largely inexperienced team for the Asia Cup in August," Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare said.

"We were already facing the prospect of playing without a number of our key players, for one reason or another, and given there are upcoming windows that carry much more significance for our program, I have had to prioritize those opportunities in planning the next three years."

Mika Vukona is rehabbing ahead of the NBL season, Rob Loe is getting married and Corey and Tai Webster are hoping to gain spots on NBA rosters.

All four were in the New Zealand side that played so well at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014.

Other national team players are unavailable due to commitments with their American college basketball sides.

A veteran-laden Tall Blacks side might have been the favorites in Group C at the FIBA Asia Cup with Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Korea but not so, now. The New Zealand Select won two of their three games in Changshu on the first part of their China tour but was given a reality check on Monday when Cameroon thumped them, 83-59.

Henare says it's vital to increase the depth in the player pool for New Zealand.

In the World Cup Asia Qualifiers, New Zealand will play First Round games both home and away against Korea, Hong Kong and China. First up will be a November 23 clash with the Koreans in New Zealand.

Henare says no one should be fooled into thinking New Zealand are going into the Asia Cup with any idea other than winning.

"Whatever team we assemble there is an expectation that they will do all they can to live up to the heritage and culture of the black singlet," Henare said. "It is a culture that has been added to layer by layer over many years by many proud players, coaches and staff.

"The depth in the game at present means that we will want to be competitive and finish as high as we can in our first ever Asia Cup. This will be a test of a younger group of players to see just how capable they are of going to the next level, creating an even deeper pool of talent to select from as we look to earn our spot at the World Cup in China 2019 and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020."

New Zealand have a lot of commitments coming up.

"The next three years are incredibly exciting and will be very demanding, with a program that now includes regular FIBA World Cup qualifying games (home and away), the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and the Asia Cup," Henare said.

"We are going to need more depth than ever as players are not available at certain times of the year or we look to cover for injuries.

"It is also vital that we have our best players in the best possible shape for the qualifiers, right now they are the games we will be measured against, they are the games that carry the greatest consequences, so they are the games I have made a priority in the next 12 months.

"I have spoken to everyone affected and they all understand what we are trying to achieve in the long term. Some had commitments that ruled them out of the Asia Cup already and some who were available are disappointed not to be playing, but understand the big picture and long-term goals. I have no issue with that disappointment being expressed, knowing that it comes from a love for playing for their country."

Source: http://www.fiba.com/asiacup/2017/news/new-zealand-look-for-players-to-gain-vital-experience-at-fiba-asia-cup

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