Corey Webster, Isaac Fotu lead New Zealand’s 14-man OQT roster

Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin is about to encounter a familiar face – Paul Henare and his New Zealand Tall Blacks – when the Olympic Qualifying Tournament comes here in Manila this July. 

Henare, a former Tall Black under Baldwin who was the chief tactician of New Zealand way back in 2004 Athens Olympics, is now at the helm of the Kiwi Basketball.

He announced last Wedneday, May 18 via the 14-man roster who will travel across the globe for friendly matches and invitational tournaments before heading to the Philippines for the Olympic Qualifiers.

NBL’s top guard Corey Webster and promising big man Isaac Fotu head the 14-man roster that has an average height of 6’4 and an average age of 25. Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are battling the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals, earlier begged off due to his NBA commitment.

New Zealand Tall Blacks Manila OQT 14-man Roster:

Tom Abercrombie – Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir (Turksih League)/SKYCITY Breakers
Forward, 29 years, 6’5”

BJ Anthony – Wellington Saints (NBL)
Forward, 28 years, 6’5”

Everard Bartlett – Southland Sharks (NBL)
Guard, 29 years, 6’3”

Finn Delany – Nelson Giants (NBL)/SKYCITY Breakers
Forward, 20 years, 6’5 ½”

Isaac Fotu – CAI Zaragoza (Liga ACB)
Forward, 22 years, 6’6”

Shea Ili – Wellington Saints (NBL)/SKYCITY Breakers (ANBL)
Guard, 23 years, 6’0”

Michael Karena – Canterbury Rams (NBL)/Wright State University (NCAA)
Centre, 22 years, 6’8”

Jarrod Kenny – Nelson Giants (NBL)/Perth Wildcats
Guard, 30 years, 6’1”

Rob Loe – Limburg United (Belgian League)
Centre, 24 years, 6’9”

Jordan Ngatai – Taranaki MountainAirs (NBL)
Forward, 23 years, 6’4”

Ethan Rusbatch – Canterbury Rams (NBL)
Guard, 23 years, 6’4”

Mika Vukona – Supercity Rangers (NBL)/SKYCITY Breakers (ANBL)
Forward, 34 years, 6’5”

Corey Webster – Supercity Rangers (NBL)/SKYCITY Breakers
Guard, 27 years, 6’2”

Tai Webster – Nebraska Cornhuskers (NCAA)
Guard, 20 years, 6’3”

Gilas Pilipinas had a slight glimpse New Zealand style of basketball when they faced the Wellington Saints, one of the teams in the National Basketball League (NBL), their PBA counterpart.  Gilas beat them twice last year in the Jones Cup at Taiwan and the MVP Cup here in Manila but it wasn’t really a good gauge for the Olympic Qualifiers.

New Zealand’s national team, popularly known as the Tall Blacks, settled for a silver medal finish in 2015 FIBA Oceania Championship behind gold medal winner and Rio Olympics-bound Australia.

They will cruise to Japan, China, Latvia, and Lithuania in the whole month of June for training camps, tune-up games and pocket tournaments before flying to Manila in July where they are bracketed with the Philippines and France in Group B.

Nations in Group A are Turkey, Senegal and Canada. – By Bryan John Ulanday