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Why fans should not underestimate New Zealand at the U19 World Cup
REGENSBURG (David Hein’s Eye on the Future) - Looking at the contenders to win the title at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019, not many people will single out New Zealand. But beware to anyone who may underestimate the Junior Tall Blacks this summer in Heraklion.
New Zealand have now qualified for two straight U19 World Cups and while it may not be a surprise they will be playing in Crete given that they now qualify through FIBA Asia, New Zealand did knock off Australia in the FIBA U18 Oceanian Championship 2016 to keep the Emus out of the U19 global spectacle for the first - and only - time in history in 2017.
New Zealand were defeated twice by Australia in the FIBA U18 Asian Championship 2018 but Gavin Briggs’ team did beat Iran and China in the knockout stages in Thailand. And the Junior Tall Blacks also have an impressive wealth of experience.
Briggs will be able to call on three guys who played college basketball this past season in the United States - Flynn Cameron at DePaul, Tomas Higgins at Texas A&M International and Oscar Oswald with St. Edwards - as well as three more who will be heading to US colleges next season - Max De Geest (Long Beach State), James Moors (Colorado State) and Kruz Perrott-Hunt (South Dakota). Two more players have played basketball in Europe - with Max Darling at Croatian side Osijek and Maxim Stephens with German club MTV Kronberg.
But there is still much more to this group of players.
Darling averaged 5.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in Croatia’s Premijer Liga, including a five-game stretch in March and April in which he averaged 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 blocks and 0.6 steals.
Darling also was close to making his debut with the Tall Blacks as he was included in the senior national team camp for the June-July 2018 window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers.
While Darling did not make Paul Henare’s Tall Blacks, Perrott-Hunt did play in the Asian Qualifiers, picking up 3 points and 2 rebounds in 9 minutes against Jordan and 7 points, 6 assists and 2 rebounds in 19 minutes versus Syria in the November-December 2018 window. Perrott-Hunt’s mother Angela coached the New Zealand U16 women’s team and his sister Georgia is playing collegiately in the United States with Tiffin University.
Kruz Perrott-Hunt playing for the Tall Blacks against Syria
The U19 World Cup team also features sons of former Tall Blacks stars. Flynn Cameron’s father Pero Cameron is one of the country’s biggest basketball in history. In addition to his experience at DePaul in the United States, Flynn also has already played at the U19 World Cup, averaging 4.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists while playing alongside his brother Tobias at the 2017 U19 World Cup in Cairo.
Stephens’ father, Neil Stephens meanwhile played for the Tall Blacks at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 1986 and was twice named to the Australian NBL league’s All-Star Five for the season with the Wellington Saints.
Briggs’ team also includes two champions as Moors and De Geest teamed up to win the FIBA 3x3 U18 Asia Cup 2018 title with De Geest being named the MVP. The duo also participated at the Buenos Aires 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games.
Another player to watch is Samuel Mennenga, who went to the Steven Adams camp and the big lefty impressed observers at this February’s Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in Charlotte.
The Junior Tall Blacks are drawn into Group A with United States, Senegal and Lithuania. That will not be an easy group and the crossover Round of 16 Group B includes Australia, Canada, Latvia and Mali, which will also not be easy. But Gavin Briggs' team will also not be easy to defeat - especially if they are underestimated at all.
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