Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare has named his side for the FIBA World Cup qualifier match against China on Friday. The side will be captained by Ngāpuhi point guard Reuben Te Rangi.
It's a strong team despite missing key senior players like Tai Wynyard, Mika Vukona and Tom Abercrombie, who is expecting the arrival of his first child.
Henare is confident that the current squad can take on China, “Obviously coming in and having that international experience and being able to lean on that- I think we've got a good group.”
After an impressive performance in their last 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifier against Hong Kong, Reuben Te Rangi (Ngāpuhi) will lead the side again stepping in for Vukona.
“With his recent experience again at the Asia Cup leading that team I thought he did an exceptional job and why's obviously been charged with that responsibility again.”
At only 18-years of age, NZ Breakers and former Rangitoto College player Dan Fotu will make his debut tomorrow night alongside brother Isaac.
“Playing Junior Tall Blacks and age-group is really good, but the Tall Blacks is top dog. It's the best of the best right there,” says Fotu.
Anything less than an energetic performance against a dominant Chinese side – who boast star Houston Rockets NBA star Zhou Qi - will not be tolerated by Henare.
“We want to be a team that plays with high energy for 40 minutes. That means getting rotations through and getting bodies on the floor. We've got a good depth in all positions, and I think it'll be an exciting brand and a brand that these guys will look forward to playing.”
New Zealand is currently one win from two games. An unlikely win against China will get them one step closer to the World Cup.