#FIBAOQT: New Zealand remains upbeat despite star shooter’s withdrawal

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

Point guard Jarrod Kenny has pulled out of New Zealand's squad that is preparing for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila with "a stomach issue".

Kenny was a virtual certainty to make the final roster and will be missed when the Tall Blacks take on France and the Philippines in Group B of the event which is to be staged 5-10 July.

"I have had a stomach issue for a few weeks now," Kenny said. "While it is yet to be fully diagnosed, it is feeling like something I experienced about 10 years ago. I had thought about coming on tour and 'toughing it out' but that would not be doing myself or the team justice."

"If you are going to commit to the Tall Blacks, you have to be prepared to give all you have and I know I am just not going to be 100% for some time, which would not be fair on my teammates or the black singlet."

The absence of the 30-year-old Kenny, who first featured for the team at the 2009 FIBA Oceania Championship, and the retirement of Lindsay Tait several weeks ago, leaves the Tall Blacks very inexperienced at point guard. Tai Webster, who turned 21 on 29 May, played at the OQT four years ago in Caracas and was New Zealand's starting floor general at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. He will get big minutes.

Shea Ili, 23, is in the team. A member of last year's FIBA Oceania Championship team, Ili has been a development player with the New Zealand Breakers and only just signed a three-year contract with the team. He played very well this season with Wellington Saints, starting at point guard and helping them capture the New Zealand NBL crown.

Corey Webster, Tai's older brother, is in the team. The 27-year-old was New Zealand's best player at the World Cup and can play both guard positions, although he is not a natural point guard.

Derone Raukawa, a combo guard who had a strong season with Southland Sharks in the NBL, has been called into the squad as Kenny's replacement.

A photo posted by Derone Raukawa (@djraukawa8) on

New Zealand coach Paul Henare said: "We will miss Jarrod's leadership and his ability to influence and control the pace of a game, but this is an opportunity for a young player in Derone to come in and test himself at another level, he is a great student of the game and has enjoyed a productive season with the Sharks and is hugely excited about this opportunity. We have quality players capable of playing in the one spot, with Tai Webster, Shea Ili and Corey Webster all comfortable in that rotation."




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