Tall Blacks buzzing ahead of qualifying series

By James Perry

The Tall Blacks have been in camp this week ahead of their World Cup qualifying series against Hong Kong and China next week. 

The Tall Blacks are raring to go and coach Paul Henare is excited. He says the effort and intensity is "something that I really enjoy, coming into this environment," and he has been impressed with the way the players have been handling themselves in Wellington.

There is a youthful look to the 20-man squad. Some are still in school, and their youthful exuberance is rubbing off on the squads veterans. 36-year old Mika Vukona is one such veteran, and says "the young guys have brought in a lot of energy and right now we're just trying to feed off that."

Henare agrees, saying, "I think it's good for the old guys just to be around that enthusiasm and that energy."

The Tall Blacks will face Hong Kong in Rotorua next Thursday, and China the following Sunday in Auckland in the return legs of the first round of the Asian group World Cup qualifiers.

They beat Hong Kong 133-74 in November, but Rob Lowe is expecting Hong Kong to be better.

The Tall Blacks also snuck a win against China in China, 82-73 in Febuary, Henare is expecting some changes to be made to the Chinese squad.

Lowe says, "they've got great players and [a] great squad so it'll be a challenge for us... It'll be fun." 

The first of the two games is against Hong Kong in Rotorua next Thursday, withthe second against China on the Sunday.

Māori Television will be broadcasting both games live.