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Tall Blacks head coach Pero Cameron wary of challenging game against Guam
WELLINGTON (New Zealand) - Tall Blacks legend Pero Cameron is nearing his debut as the head coach of the New Zealand national team, after being appointed the position last November. One of his first big tasks was to name a 14-player squad for the upcoming first window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers.
What many might be surprised by is the quality of Guam, led by the Wesley brothers - Pero Cameron
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An extended #TallBlacks squad of 14 has been named for Round one of the @FIBAAsiaCup Qualifiers vs AUS (20 Feb) & Guam (23 Feb). With a few players rested, this is a squad with some new exciting young players getting a look in! More at www.TallBlacks.basketball #TuKaha #FibaAsiaCup
"This is a vital window for us, both in terms of the Asia Cup qualifying process and also to get the bulk of the team together before we have a final shot at the Olympic Games at the qualifier in Serbia in June," said Cameron.
The named roster features 6 players from the runners-up squad at Asia Cup 2017, including All-Star Five member Shea Illi. The Tall Blacks will also be returning 8 players from the recent World Cup squad, among those being Rob Lowe who averaged 11.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game in China.
37-year-old Mika Vukona could also be primed for a return to the national team, where he can provide plenty of experience from his long history playing for the Tall Blacks. Both Vukona and Reuben Te Rangi are excited for the chance of returning to the put on the Tall Blacks jersey after missing out on the previous tournament with an injury.
(Mika Vukona, FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers)
This team will take all the experience and wisdom it can get to groom their group of promising prospects. The Asia Cup Qualifiers will be a stage of opportunity for youngsters to get on the court and shine and New Zealand is looking to make the most out of it. Tom Vodanovich, Taylor Britt, and Hyrum Harris have displayed their potential time and again in the recent years, resulting in an extended chance to display their talents at the first window of the Asia Cup Qualifiers.
However, the most intriguing prospect in the list is Taine Murray who will still only be 17 years old at the time the first window tips off. Murray has been turning heads throughout 2019, even being one of the final cuts from the World Cup squad itself last year.
New Zealand takes on a tough task to start the Asia Cup Qualifiers in Group C, taking a visit to Brisbane to face Australia in their opening game on 20 February before a second straight game away from home on 23 February against Guam.
"Everyone knows how tough Australia will be, even with a domestic-based roster, they will start warm favorites on their home floor thanks largely to the great depth they have across all positions and the chemistry those players have established over a long time playing together or against each other," Cameron said of their first opponents.
"What many might be surprised by is the quality of Guam, led by the Wesley brothers. They are playing confident basketball and have dominated qualifying to this point," added Cameron of the following matchup in this window. "This game at home will be a huge occasion for them and they will be primed to make an impression."