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Tall Blacks prepare for torrid three games in three days against world leading teams

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The MBO Tall Blacks typically thrive on the big occasion. Throughout recent history the little team that could from down under has made an art form of upsetting the odds against more fancied rivals - not always winning, but invariably contending. That record will be put to the test this week when the Tall Blacks play France tonight (ranked third in the world), Serbia tomorrow (fourth) and Italy on Monday (13th) in China to round off their World Cup preparations.

The opposition have brought a number of NBA stars to the Four Nations Tournament including Nikola Jokic, Bogdan Bogdanović, Boban Marjanović, Nemanja Bjelica (Serbia); Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier, Nicolas Batum, Frank Ntilikina (France); Luigi Datome, Marco Belinelli, Danilo Gallinari.

The Tall Blacks have again faced a busy travelling schedule with a change of countries and the packing and travel that is involved, but shooting guard Corey Webster is brushing it off as nothing more than life as usual in the Tall Black singlet.

"We are used to this. We look around us at the teams that we play and see more staff than players, big budgets and all the extras. Of course, we would love to have more resource to help us, but it is kind of in our DNA to have our backs against the wall and this week is no different.

"We know we have each other’s backs and that our staff are doing all they can within those limits to ensure we are ready to go, I have no doubt the boys will be ready come tip off - we have to be, this will be another level again from our two games against Canada and we saw what a slow start did to us in game one of that series."

While the three games loom as one of the toughest weeks in the history of the black singlet, there is of course a bigger dream at play - this Four Nations Tournament is the final phase in preparation for the FIBA World Cup, hosted in China from 31 August, with the Tall Blacks first game on September 1 against Brazil.

Webster showed he is timing his run nicely, very nearly leading the team to a remarkable bounce-back win over Canada with 33 points in the 103-100 overtime defeat in Sydney.

"These are the games you play for, the chance to go up against some of the world’s best individuals, best systems and great coaches," said Webster. "But ultimately they are about us and doing all we can to be ready for Brazil. Of course, you want to win every time you step on the floor in this singlet, but we are also playing the long game and making sure we are ready on 1 September."

It is not yet known if the Tall Blacks will be back to full strength, having played the Canadian series without guard Shea Ili and with Jarrod Kenny and Alex Pledger also down on energy due to a viral infection, while Rob Loe left the second of those games late with a minor leg strain.

But as has been shown on the tour so far, others step up when the opportunity arises, with all 12 players on the roster knowing their role and how they can best contribute to make the team better, something of a hallmark of Tall Blacks basketball over the decades.


MBO Tall Blacks v France

Shenyang, China

Saturday 24th August

7:30 tip off (11:30pm NZT)

Watch Live on Sky Sport 3 (coverage likely to start from 11:20pm).

Tall Blacks v Serbia

Anshan, China

Sunday 25 August

7:30pm tip off (11:30pm NZT)

Watch Live on Sky Sport 9 (coverage likely to start from 11:20pm).

Tall Blacks v Italy

Anshan, China

Monday 26 August

7:30pm tip off (11:30pm NZT)

Watch Live on Sky Sport 9 (coverage likely to start from 11:20pm).

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