Tall Blacks return to Christchurch

By James Perry

The Tall Blacks play Jordan tomorrow night in the Garden City.

It has been 14 years since the Tall Blacks last played in Christchurch, beating Australia 80-75. 

Current coaches Paul Henare and Pero Cameron were players that night.  While they have largely been travelling between the team hotel and the training courts Henare say his side is looking forward to getting out in front of the local Canterbury crowd.

"We've had awesome support, we've trained at a couple of different facilities, we had a little clinic that we were a part of on Monday when we arrived so we feel like there's a pretty good buzz."

A win for the Tall Blacks puts them one step closer to qualifying for the World Cup in China next year.

Their opponents Jordan, however, are at risk of missing out.

The Jordanians looked calm and relaxed during their shoot around at Horncastle Arena.  However new coach Joey Steibing knows his side are under pressure. 

"We're kind of fighting for our lives right now, New Zealand's at the top of the bracket, we're in 4th place- this is a really big game for us."

New Zealand took the honours last time the two countries met, thrashing Jordan 98-70 at the 2017 Asia Cup.

Jordan boasts three players who stand more than two metres tall.  However, Paul Henare doesn't seem too phased about his side matching up.

Boasting two of his own two metre tall players, Henare thinks his team might be in the rare situation of having a height advantage.

"Alex Pledger and Rob Loe are world class 'bigs' and we'll be relying on them to hold down that in the middle."

Mahmoud Abdeen and Mousa Alawadi have been averaging 40% from beyond the 3-point line, posing a double threat for Jordan should the Tall Blacks be effective in shutting down the middle.

Henare has been busy studying his opposition, finding their strengths and weaknesses, "who their shooters are and what we can afford to do in terms of helping off other guys or not.  We spend a bit of time with homework and so the guys know them, and we'll be right once we get to game time."

Coming on board only last month, Steibing says his side is adjusting to his style of play.  He acknowledges the discipline and development of the New Zealand side. 

"We have our work cut out but we've been working hard and hopefully we'll be up to the challenge."

Following the game on Thursday, the Tall Blacks move to Wellington where they take on Syria on Sunday.  Two wins this weekend all but secures their spot in the world cup next year.

Māori Television will be broadcasting both games live.