#FIBAOQT: Promising signs as Tall Blacks get ready for Manila

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

New Zealand's Tall Blacks rolled to an impressive 80-65 win over Belarus in their opening game of the Atlas Tournament in China.

Warming up for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila, the Kiwis got a one-two punch from the Webster brothers with Tai pouring in 16 points and Corey 14. Isaac Fotu and Jordan Ngatai contributed 13 apiece in the victory for New Zealand, who only left home for Asia on 7 June.






Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare knows extremely tough games against France and the Philippines, then potential clashes with Turkey, Senegal and Canada await his team at the OQT, which they must win to play at the Rio de Janeiro Games. The first result bodes well for the coming days and weeks.

"Overall it was a good performance from the guys, the starting group played some pretty good basketball which allowed us to spread the minutes around and get everyone out to play which was great from our preparation point of view," Henare said. "For the time that each of them were on the floor, we made improvements from Japan and that is what we will continue to try and do throughout the rest of the tournament."

New Zealand had first travelled to Japan to face their national team in behind-closed-doors scrimmages.

Mike Karena, meanwhile, has been impressive as he attempts to gain a spot on the 12-team roster for the OQT. The 22-year-old big man just wrapped up an American collegiate career at Wright State University and played for the Canterbury Rams in New Zealand, with performances that earned him a spot in the squad.





"I don't like to but if I was to single out a guy, Mike Karena has been the surprise package for me, the physicality and inside presence that he is giving us right now – which is something that has been talked about in the media in recent times, he has been doing that and is playing at a higher level right now than he was in the NBL," Henare said. "But while I single out Mike, all of them have done really well."

At the Atlas Tournament, New Zealand take on Japan on Wednesday and China on Thursday.


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