Tall Blacks to face Canada in world cup build-up

By James Perry

The Tall Blacks will take on Canada in Sydney in August as part of their Basketball World Championship preparations.

Basketball New Zealand have confirmed their programme ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, with back-to-back games against Canada in Sydney underpinning a comprehensive preparation that will also see the team play in Japan and China on the way to the World Championships from August 31 – September 15.

The Canadian team is expected to field a team laden with NBA experience.

Basketball New Zealand CEO Iain Potter is delighted with the build-up and the invitation to play two games against one of the world’s leading basketball nations.

“These games are an amazing opportunity for the Tall Blacks, but also for Basketball New Zealand to forge new and ongoing relationships," says Potter, "It speaks to our reputation on the international stage that we have secured such an invite to play alongside some of the world’s best teams and I know Pauli [head coach Paul Henare] sees the games against Canada as a great measuring stick for where the team will be at leading into the world cup."

“This is also a great incentive for our players, a chance for them to show what they can do against NBA-level opposition, as a team but also in their own careers – who knows what might come of such an opportunity.”

The Tall Blacks last met Canada during a classic semi-final encounter at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, with the Canadians winning on the buzzer.

Canada Basketball General Manager, Men’s High Performance Rowan Barrett says, “The Tall Blacks are a team on the rise and these will be another series of important games as we continue to build towards the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.

"Having last faced off in the semifinals at both the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila, Canada and New Zealand have some recent history and we expect a pair of hard-fought games that will ultimately better prepare us to achieve our goals at the world cup.”

New Zealand is one of only five nations, along with USA, Serbia, Argentina and Spain, to have made it out of pool play in each of the past four FIBA Basketball World Cups.

Henare is delighted with the build-up and has no doubt it will get his side in great shape physically and mentally, ready to go for game one at the world cup.

“The team at Basketball New Zealand deserve huge praise for what they have put in place for us to be ready and at our best at the World Cup," says Henare, "Playing through the Asia qualifiers was a new and massive test and one that we passed with flying colours, but the World Cup will go up another couple of notches in intensity and quality and it is vital we are ready for that level of basketball."

The Tall Blacks will assemble for a four-day camp in New Zealand before heading off to Australia, where players will have their final opportunity to push for selection. A squad of 14 will be taken to Australia for the Canadian series.

From there the team heads to Japan, where the Tall Blacks will play against the Japanese national team twice in that time before heading to Sydney for the games against Canada.

Then it's on to Chin, for a final pre-World Cup tournament and games against three European heavyweights, France (FIBA ranking 3), Serbia (4) and Italy (13) before the world cup begins in August with the Tall Blacks to face Brazil, Montenegro and Greece in Group F action.