The Junior Tall Blacks (JTB) team has been named for the FIBA Oceania Championships in Fiji, which could be one of the strongest junior basketball teams yet.
Head Coach Daryl Cartwright says every one of the 12 players have the confidence to lead and step up to a more intense level of competition.
“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. 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.”
The team already has a number of players that are well known to the basketball community for more than their on-court ability.
The basketball pedigree of two new faces is particularly notable – Flynn and Tobias Cameron, the sons of Tall Black legend and Tall Black Assistant Coach Pero Cameron. Both live in the Gold Coast and although they are eligible to compete for Australia, they have put their hands up for New Zealand.
Dan Fotu is another familiar name, being the younger brother of Tall Black and Zaragoza player Isaac Fotu. Dan Fotu was also selected for the Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp, alongside JTB team mates Sam Waardenburg, Taane Samuel and Quinn Clinton. Clinton went on to be named MVP of the camp’s All Star Game, while Waardenburg was named MVP of the entire camp.
Sam Waardenburg has already hit the headlines multiple times through playing in the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Champs, being picked for the prestigious NIKE All Asia Camp, attending the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp, attending the Adidas Nations Tournament and for signing to Miami University on a full Division 1 Scholarship. JTB teammate Takiula Fahrensohn has also signed to Division 1 with the University of Portland.
Another stand out player is seven foot tall Callum McRae, the team’s big man who will play a key defensive role. Notably he led the Palmerston North Boys team to a near upset at the Secondary Schools Nationals in October, had it not been for the Rangitoto buzzer beater in the final second.
From March 2015, the JTB wider squad have been targeting the 2016 FIBA Oceania Championships as a pinnacle event. The winner of the tournament will qualify for the FIBA Under 19 World Cup in Cairo next year. Coach Cartwright says the difficult final selection is the result of standout performances from each of these players, while a number of those who didn’t make the final cut could also step up if there are injuries.
“We have had a very dedicated and committed group over the course of the lead up campaign, and there is real depth in every position. The squad have risen to the challenges we have asked of them this year and competed hard for the opportunity to represent New Zealand. It is always a position you would prefer to be in as coaching staff, to debate player’ attributes and who we think fits with the style we want to play, as well as the expectations that come with being part of this New Zealand team.”
With less than a month until the Oceania Championships tip off, Cartwright says what the team needs now is time to develop as a group, which will be the focus while the team are in camp this week.
“It takes time to develop playing as a group. Developing that understanding of how to get the best out of your teammates, where they like to score and other factors. We have not had the luxury of international competition as part of our build up, but that cannot be an excuse, we must demand the very best of each other so we can prepare for the challenge of potentially facing a very good Australian team.”
Australia are the top seeds for the event. A number of the current JTBs played this Australian team in 2015 at the FIBA Under 16 Oceania Championships, only losing within the final moments of final, despite having beaten the team in pool play. New Zealand is yet to win an Oceania age-group championships, mainly due to the dominance of a well-funded Australian basketball system.
“We are looking at how we can use what our strengths are to face them,” says Cartwright. “As a playing group we will need to play together as a team. If you look at what truly makes the Tall Blacks a special team, it is how they draw together as a playing group and are prepared to fight and scrap for every possession. Are you prepared to work for your teammate beside you for every second of the clock? It is about the mana of the singlet. That’s what allows them to push the giants on the world stage. We have to be prepared to do that all the way to the final game.
“My drive is to get our athletes to a World Championship. To be able to represent New Zealand in a tournament where they have the opportunity to compete against the best in the world is a big deal for these players.”
The JTBs is a development team where its alumni often go on to higher honours. Cartwright says this team is a fine example of the state of New Zealand basketball and the increasing rise of New Zealand basketball on the world stage.
“We are seeing a growth period in the game in New Zealand at present and, with the success of Steven Adams in the NBA, we are going to see that continue. There are also many administrators and coaches all around the country who put in a lot of hours to develop the game because they have a passion for the sport. As the people in key roles and those they work alongside continue to develop and improve, so will the talent of our junior players. The number of kiwi athletes in the American college system at the moment is at an all-time high and quality Division 1 and 2 schools are looking at our emerging talent. As these players go through the system, we may well see more Kiwis flying the New Zealand flag in the NBA or WNBA. The end result is greater depth at the Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns level.”
Junior Tall Blacks – Final 12 (Name | Age | Position | Height | Association):
The Junior Tall Ferns final squad has been named today, ahead of the FIBA Under 18 Oceania Championships in December.
Junior Tall Ferns
Tiarna Clarke (North Harbour)
McKenna Dale (Connecticut, USA)
Aliyah Dunn (Southland)
Jayden Fuiava (QLD, Australia)
Kendell Heremaia (Waikato)
Alyssa Hirawani (Waikato)
Zara Jillings (North Harbour)
Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato)
Esra McGoldrick (Canterbury)
Tera Reed (North Harbour)
Nicole Ruske (Otago)
Charlotte Whittaker (North Canterbury)
Head Coach – Brent Matehaere
Assistant Coaches – Trent Adam, Bronwen Davidson
Manager – Melanie Bennett
Physiotherapist – Janet Main
All games will run Live Stats, which can be viewed via the FIBA event website.
At this stage no details are available regarding the live streaming of matches.
The FIBA U18 Oceania Championships are the qualifiers for next year’s World Cup. Please note that New Zealand’s and FIBA’s terminology are different - FIBA’s Under 18s means 18 years old and younger, which is the equivalent of New Zealand’s Under 19s. .
Callum McRae (Palmerston North BHS) - Callum McRae stands seven-feet tall and towered above many opponents in 2016. He scored a game-high 36 points in the National Final, including 11 in a row in the third quarter ,to nearly lead Palmerston North BHS to an improbable victory. The Year 12 has been selected for various New Zealand age group squads and is on the raider of several leading US colleges.
Sam Waardenburg (Rangitoto College) - The 2.08m Waardenburg has stood above the pack in 2016. In addition to helping Rangitoto successfully defend their National title, he scored 21 points in the Final. Waardenburg has been an exhaustive traveller showcasing his basketball prowess. He represented New Zealand at the 3x3 world championships, was named the "outstanding player" at the Nike All Asia camp, MVP at the NBA's Basketball Without Borders Camp in Australia and also rated a top-10 performer at the prestigious Adidas Nations tournament in Los Angeles – the same event where a young Steven Adams first made his name. In 2017 he will play of the University of Miami on scholarship
Quinn Clinton (Christchurch BHS) - Clinton was named All-Star Game MVP at the NBA Without Borders Asia camp in Australia in May. He will be heading to US on scholarship at a Division One college after a stellar 2016. He represented the Canterbury Rams in the NBL and guided Christchurch BHS to the Canterbury title and an eighth place finish in New Zealand. In the Christchurch final he was named MVP after scored 15 points, collecting 10 rebounds and contributing 7 assists. Former Tall Black point guard Mark Dickel has said, "He's the first player from New Zealand [in a long time] that combines being a great shooter with a great passer. He's kind of unique."
Charlisse Leger-Walker (St. Peter's Cambridge) - Charlisse impressively made the tournament team as a Year 9. In 2016 she went one step further by being name girls tournament MVP. She scored 35 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the final won 68-53 by St Peter's over MAGS. A night earlier in the semi-final she collected 30 points in the semi-final despite conceding three fouls in the first quarter. Leger-Walker is in the New Zealand high performance program and appears to have a very bright future in the game.
Sharne Pupuki-Robati (Mount Albert Grammar School) - Mount Albert Grammar School punched above their weight at Nationals. After losing the semi-finals of the Auckland competition and finishing a disappointing fifth at the Zone Championships, MAGS made it all the way to their final, eliminating two regional champions along the way. Pupuki-Robati, a New Zealand Under-16's representative, was selected in the tournament team and her inspired captaincy drove MAGS to a higher than expected finish.
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