The New Zealand team has been named today ahead of the FIBA Under 18 3x3 World Cup, which will be hosted in Chengdu, China, from 28 June to 2 July.
Rangimarie Mita, Thabo Manyere, William Heather, Isaiah Jones will depart for China this week to take on the world’s best young 3x3 talent. Although considered underdogs this year, the team boasts a proud Kiwi history with two world titles in New Zealand trophy cabinet. The first is from 2011 when Tai Webster, Reuben Te Rangi and Isaac Fotu won in 2011. All have since gone on to become Tall Blacks. In 2015 New Zealand’s second World Cup was won by captain Nikau McCullough, tournament MVP Tai Wynyard, and Sam Timmins and Matt Freeman, who brought the house down by beating Argentina in a tense final 20 to 18.
Head Coach Anthony Corban was at the teams’ helm for both of those world titles.
“I take pride in our outstanding history in the U18 3x3 World Championship. What made those teams world beaters was that they had been put through a tough training regime before the tournament. They experienced fatigue and failure in training and learnt from it,” says Corban.
This 2017 team is another group of talented young men who will need to adapt quickly to the hype that has become synonymous with 3x3 events, but Coach Corban says he’s picked a team that will gel on court, and that these young men have the grit required to overcome their underdog status at this World Cup.
“Will Heather is a post player with the ability to stretch the defence with his outside shooting ability. I like the fact he can strongly defend the post with one-on-one coverage.
“Then there’s Thabo [Manyere], who’s an athletic player. He can overpower smaller players on the perimeter and take bigger players off the dribble. I particularly like his on-court work ethic.
“Isaia [Jones] is athletic guard with inside/outside game. It will be tough for teams to match up on him and defend. I like his physical strength and ability to get to the basket.
“Rangimarie Mita is a tall shooting guard with ability to get to the basket off the dribble,” said Coach Corban.
Everyone one of these players will have to be on their game if the wish to advance through to the playoff rounds, as New Zealand has drawn formidable opposition in Pool B – Ukraine, Bahrain, Georgia, and Qatar.
“I wish it was easy to predict how we are going to go, but yes we are in a tough group. Qatar are defending champions, and Ukraine and Georgia were particularly good teams last year.
“We’ve trained with tough opposition in mind though. Our camps have been intense with these boys learning to play bigger and stronger teams, particularly through the training sessions we’ve had with our open men’s team. But at the end of the day, the main focus for this team is on what they can control, which is our decision making on the court – get that right and everything else takes care of itself.”
Coach Corban will meet the team in China after departing Nantes in France where he’s been at the open men’s FIBA 3x3 World Cup. In China, he’ll be looking to go at least one stage further than the open men’s team, with the playoff stages in mind. Corban says the junior programme in New Zealand is continuing to produce talented basketballers and predicts more world titles.
“With the Junior Tall Blacks team in Cairo and Under 18 team heading to Guam, solid performances on the court in China will further underline the continuing depth New Zealand is building in age group basketball,” says Corban.
“It’s us against the world.”
New Zealand U18 3x3 Team:
Follow the team through www.basketball.org.nz and Basketball New Zealand’s social media channels: @BasketballNZ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
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