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Strong NZ U-17 team for FIBA World Cup

Hayden Jones and Lachlan Crate basketball
Hayden Jones (No 13) and Lachlan Crate (No 14) are two key players for the Emerging Junior Tall Blacks. PHOTO: FIBA

Head coach Leyton Haddleton has named a strong Emerging Junior Tall Blacks squad for the upcoming FIBA Under-17 World Cup in Istanbul, Turkiye.


The roster of 12 includes 11 players returning from the team that finished runners-up at last year's FIBA Under-16 Asia Championship and 11 players currently part of National Basketball League (NBL) wider squads.



The side, which features players from nine different associations, is headlined by the promising trio of Oscar Goodman, Hayden Jones and Lachlan Crate.


Goodman returns after being named MVP of the U-16 Asia tournament, with the 6-foot-7 forward averaging 14 points and a team-leading 8.3 rebounds over five games, while dominating the competition with his strength and athleticism.


Jones, the son of Tall Blacks legend Phill Jones who averaged 12.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and a team-leading 4.3 assists in Qatar, is back after suiting up for the Tall Blacks against Hong Kong at the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in February, scoring seven points in his senior national team debut.


And Crate, who led New Zealand in scoring (15.2 points) and steals (2.0) at the Asia Championship, is another welcome return to a talented young squad.



The sole new addition to the team is Jackson Kiss; a talented 6-foot-7 athlete out of Auckland Grammar, who will make his debut national team appearance.


Goodman is the only player not training with an NBL team, due to being based at the NBA Global Academy in Canberra, although he played for Taranaki Airs in 2023.


Four players - Kiss, Gus Dallow, Jameer Reed and Hunter Te Ratana - are with the Auckland Tuatara; Jones and James Matthews with the Nelson Giants, and Ihaka Cate and Mana Martin with the Canterbury Rams.


Crate has been with the Manawatu Jets for several years, while Troy Plumtree is part of the Wellington Saints and Jackson Ball with the Bay Hawks.



Haddleton, who will be assisted by Darron Larsen and Greg Brockbank (replacing Jason Crummer), said his squad would employ the typical ‘Kiwi brand’ of toughness, flexibility and basketball IQ to be successful at World Cup level.


“With the makeup of this team our athletes are interchangeable across the group; that’s one of our strengths is that we’re skilled and athletic across the squad – and that can make us tough to guard,” said Haddleton.


“We need to play that way as we don’t have any seven footers on our team, so we use our athleticism, skills and basketball IQ to our advantage – it’s a Kiwi trait that we fully embody with this squad. The strength of our team is our team; I feel like any person that starts or comes off the bench can contribute.


“We also have complete buy-in and everybody does what they need to do for the team; no-one goes out there thinking ‘I’m the guy who needs to get 30 points’, we’re not built like that – we do things by committee and focus on getting the win.”


Oscar Goodman Emerging Junior Tall Blacks basketball
Oscar Goodman was named MVP at last year's FIBA U-16 Asia Championship. PHOTO: FIBA

The FIBA U-17 World Cup is the culmination of a three-year cycle for Basketball New Zealand’s U-17 programme, which began in 2022 when the under-15 team finished second at the FIBA U-15 Oceania Championship in Guam.


That earned them a spot at the U-16 tournament in Qatar, where they went 5-1, losing 79-76 to the three-peat champion Australia Crocs in a back-and-forth final, with Jones scoring a game-high 31 points.


The team will travel to Istanbul, Türkiye in mid-June for a pre-World Cup friendly tournament, prior to their World Cup opener on June 29.


New Zealand will face hosts Türkiye on day one, followed by games against Argentina and Italy on days two and four. They then move onto a Round of 16 that features crossover play against the other pools, with the winner progressing to the quarterfinals.


Emerging Junior Tall Blacks basketball
The Emerging Junior Tall Blacks fell to Australia in the U-16 Asia Championship last year. PHOTO: FIBA

Haddleton said a top-eight finish was the initial goal at the pinnacle event.


“When you look at what’s happened in the past with our age=group campaigns in a World Cup setting, it’s been difficult to secure a top-10 finish. So the goal is to set ourselves up through pool play to win the crossover [in the Round of 16], that means we’re top eight. And when you get to the top-eight, anything can happen.


“We play host Türkiye in our first game, which is a great way to start our campaign. It’ll be a prime-time game on the first day so we’ll expect a good crowd.


"Our challenge is to get our campaign off on the right foot, to perform when the energy of that Türkiye home crowd is against us. If we can get through the first game, then we’re on the right track.”


EMERGING JUNIOR TALL BLACKS SQUAD

 

Jackson Ball (Hawke's Bay/Bay Hawks)

Ihaka Cate (Canterbury/Canterbury Rams)

Lachlan Crate (Manawatu/Manawatu Jets)

Gus Dallow (Harbour/Auckland Tuatara)

Oscar Goodman (Taranaki/NBA Global Academy)

Hayden Jones (Nelson/Nelson Giants)

Jackson Kiss (Auckland/Auckland Tuatara)

Mana Martin (Canterbury/Canterbury Rams)

James Matthews (Nelson/Nelson Giants)

Troy Plumtree (Wellington/Wellington Saints)

Jameer Reed (Harbour/Auckland Tuatara)

Hunter Te Ratana (Waitakere West Auckland/Auckland Tuatara)


EMERGING JUNIOR TALL BLACKS SCHEDULE

 

FIBA Under-17 World Cup, Istanbul, Turkiye

June 29: vs Turkey (time TBC)

June 30: vs Argentina (time TBC)

July 2: vs Italy (time TBC)

July 3: Round of 16 (time TBC)

July 5: Quarterfinals/Classification Rounds

July 6: Semifinals/Classification Rounds

July 7: Finals/Classification Rounds

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