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Playing home Qualifiers a rush for New Zealand's Webster
FRANKFURT (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers) - The rush of playing the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers at home was huge for Tai Webster. And the New Zealand guard cannot wait for the next games in front of the Tall Blacks supporters.
Webster was one of New Zealand's top players in their opening Group A Qualifier at home against Korea with 14 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals. Those stats were not enough as New Zealand lost at home in Wellington 86-80. The Tall Blacks were able to bounce back with a 133-74 win at Hong Kong. But Webster looks back more on the loss.
"We would have liked to have walked away with two wins to open things, but I mean Korea really played well," said Webster, one of four New Zealand players with double digit scoring. "For the most part I think we got some things worked out in that very short time that we needed to and I’m looking forward to us putting what we learnt from the first two games into action for the next games."
The team did lose against Korea, but Webster and Co got to feel the support of the Tall Blacks at the TSB Bank Arena in New Zealand's capital.
"It was awesome. Such a rush to be able to play in front of family and friends like that and to bring that quality of basketball to New Zealand. For our fans to see that is great for us and the sport of basketball as a whole in New Zealand," the 22-year-old Webster said.
"The atmosphere is incredible. The energy is high on the the court and I think that really gets reciprocated by the fans creating a very exciting atmosphere."
Webster, who is spending his rookie professional season with the German club Fraport Skyliners, said the Qualifiers are crucial for the growth of the game in New Zealand.
"I think it's very important. Growing up, I only ever really saw a couple Tall Blacks games being played at home and to be able to bring those games home to the fans is huge - I'm sure for even for the younger generation of basketball players coming through."
"IT WAS AWESOME. SUCH A RUSH TO BE ABLE TO PLAY IN FRONT OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS LIKE THAT AND TO BRING THAT QUALITY OF BASKETBALL TO NEW ZEALAND. FOR OUR FANS TO SEE THAT IS GREAT FOR US AND THE SPORT OF BASKETBALL AS A WHOLE IN NEW ZEALAND"
Webster was playing his fourth competition for New Zealand following the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in 2012 and 2016 and the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014. It was the first time for Webster playing in the FIBA Asia zone, which debuted at FIBA Asia Cup 2017 with Australia and New Zealand playing this summer for the first time.
"It's great that both New Zealand and Australia get to play in the Asia zone. It just makes for better and more competition for both countries to go against," he said.
The Takapuna native said he always loves spending time with his national team friends and the time went so quickly in the first window.
"The amount of time we get to spend together goes by so quickly that you're already looking towards the next one," Webster said.
Webster will have to wait until late February before he can join up with his compatriots again with games at China and Korea on February 23 and February 26.
"I can't really speak for anyone else on the team but i personally accept to win both of the games in this next window," Webster said.
And then in June and July 2018 it's back home to New Zealand for the final two Qualifiers - and the rush of playing in front of family and friends.