CAMBEWARRA’S James Hunter and his Tall Blacks go into their quarter final at the FIBA Asia Cup more than ready to play, in fact with four days since their last group game against Korea, there might be suggestions they have had too much time away from the pressure of a game environment.
Meanwhile their opponents Jordan are battle hardened, having made the quarter-finals the hard way, in a playoff match against Iraq that they won 84-70, easing away in the final quarter.
They are being talked about as the improvers of the tournament, getting stronger with each outing and will be formidable opponents for the #YoungBlood Tall Blacks team.
Head Coach Paul Henare is wary of the break, but has been working the team hard in the interim and offers up no excuses.
“The boys have been working hard, they had one day off after the game against Korea but since have been fully focused on this game – even if we only found out our opponent last night,” Henare said.
“It is important to maintain that sharpness and edge, but there is nothing like playing games to have you in the best shape physically and mentally, so this will be a challenge for this young group – yet another learning for them to go through.
“But nothing seems to faze them, we have had our moments on tour but for the most part they are quick to learn and put into action the work we are doing on the practice court and in our individual scouts.
“We have had the odd moment for sure, but that is to be expected.
“And what I expect from this group tomorrow night (local time) is complete commitment to the singlet and Tall Blacks basketball and a performance they and everyone at home can be proud of.”
The rotation has found a settled look with a starting group of Shea Ili, Reuben Te Rangi, Jordan Ngatai, Finn Delany and Sam Timmins backed up by strong minutes and contributions from the bench, with Derone Raukawa, Tohi Smith-Milner and Ethan Rusbatch leading the way for the second unit.
But as Henare has said already this week, every player is ready and capable should they be called upon to play some minutes or contribute to a vital play, with this young New Zealand team knowing that a win Friday will propel them into medal contention at the very first time of trying at the FIBA Asia Cup.
The entire roster is available for selection ahead of the match.
There have been minor injury concerns only for the team all tour, and (touch wood) that continues now that the business end of the Asia Cup has arrived, with the Tall Blacks facing three games in four days to round out their campaign.
The Tall Blacks are hoping that those games are all played in the main part of the tournament as they chase medals, not in classification games for the quarter-final losers.