#ManilaOQT: Kiwis look to 'bring down a Goliath or two'

(Image from FIBA)
*This first appeared on FIBA.com.

If you're looking to pick a winner at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila and know all about the international game, the New Zealand Tall Blacks would appear to have as good a chance as any side.

That is certainly the opinion of their coach, Paul Henare, and it's a belief that he will be instilling in his players in the coming weeks as they prepare for battle.

Out of the Olympics since 2004 but always up for the fight and among the toughest national teams to face year after year, the Kiwis are shaping up to be as combative as ever with Henare having announced the 14 players that will go after the 12 spots in the team to compete in the Philippines from 5-10 July. Henare will take his troops on a tour of Asia before leaving for the Philippine capital city.

There are linchpins in the team like Mika Vukona, Tom Abercrombie, Corey Webster, Isaac Fotu and Rob Loe and a host of other talents that Henare will choose to go up against France and the Philippines in Group B and potentially Canada, Senegal and Turkey in knockout games.

All of these players faced Australia in last year's FIBA Oceania Championship. 

"Mika, Tom, Corey, Ike and Rob and others before have contributed so much to the rich and storied history of this special team," said Henare, a former national team player himself who competed at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and the 2002 and 2006 FIBA Basketball World Cups.

"These players will be the backbone of our efforts to qualify for Rio. But despite the many sacrifices they have all made, if you ask any of them today I am betting none of them will regret a single moment, such is the mana of being a Tall Black and how it enriches all involved."

Henare will now assess the players to join his core. One of them is sure to be Jarrod Kenny, the point guard who has been in the set-up since the 2009 FIBA Oceania Championship. Now 30, Kenny featured at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup and had a prominent role in last year's FIBA Oceania Championship squad.

A photo posted by Anecia Wilkie (@anecia_wilkie98) on

Kenny was in the Perth Wildcats side that beat Henare's New Zealand Breakers in the National Basketball League Grand Final. Another player sure to have an important role will be Tai Webster, the starting point guard in the Tall Blacks squad at the World Cup.

Webster was in the Tall Blacks' starting five at Spain 2014

"Our number one goal is to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games," Henare said. "I have every belief that we can overcome the odds and achieve that goal. And yes, we will be underdogs, but how many times are we ever the favorites going into a big contest?"

The Tall Blacks have shown through the years that we don’t mind playing the part of David, often in the past we have thrived on it, and we aim to bring down a Goliath or two in July. - Henare

New Zealand 14-player preliminary squad for 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila: 
Rob Loe - 6’11 - C
Michael Karena - 6’10 - C
Isaac Fotu - 6’8 - F/C
Finn Delany - 6’7 - F
Jordan Ngatai - 6’7 - F
Tom Abercrombie - 6’6 - F
BJ Anthony - 6’6 - F
Mika Vukona - 6’6 - F
Everard Bartlett - 6’6 - G
Ethan Rusbatch - 6’5 - G/F
Tai Webster - 6’4 - G
Jarrod Kenny - 6’1 - G
Corey Webster - 6’1 - G
Shea Ili - 6’0 - G




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