Cancellation baffles basketballers

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 05:00 02/08/2013
BBALL
JASON OXENHAM

GAME'S OFF: Denis Xhiha and his team-mates are disappointed they won’t get to play against the Indiana Wesleyan University team on Saturday.

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An international basketball game scheduled between Kiwi and American university students at ASB Stadium in Kohimarama tomorrow night has been cancelled and the players involved are left wondering why.

Denis Xhiha, who featured on the cover of the East & Bays Courier on July 12, says he is disappointed at the turn of events.

The New Zealand Taniwhas, a men's combined university team, was scheduled to play the Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats at ASB Stadium on Saturday night.

ASB Stadium confirms the game was cancelled on July 22.

"We are all pretty down and disappointed. It sounded like a great opportunity," Mr Xhiha says.

The Indiana team arrived in New Zealand today to play in the Athletes in Action tournament against New Zealand university teams and the Breakers Development Team.

The team is in New Zealand until August 18.

The game against the Taniwhas was booked by the Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand as an add-on to the Indiana team's tour, at the request of an organisation called Throwback 360 Athletics.

The church had to cancel after it became clear the money required for the booking was not going to be forthcoming.

Trials for the Taniwhas were advertised by Throwback 360 Athletics earlier this year. But even at that early stage, some players had suspicions about the legitimacy of the team.

"For me the first big catch was just the team itself. Everybody at trials made it - that never happens. The whole time there was a bit of a question mark," Mr Xhiha says.

Things seemed to go well for a time. The Taniwhas trained together and attended a camp with NBA scout and NCAA coach Avi Meyerson in June.

Auckland Basketball Services Limited general manager Dave MacKay says he first heard of Throwback 360 Athletics when he received an email about the trials.

The six association managers on the Basketball New Zealand advisory committee discussed the email but not one of them had heard of the organisation before, he says.

Mr MacKay has worked in New Zealand basketball for 15 years.

"No-one knew who they were and what they were trying to achieve.

"I don't think it's good for basketball having these sorts of organisations starting up. It creates isolation and fractions within the sport."

Nelson Giants player Phill Jones was approached to be a mentor for the Taniwhas.

He once met a few of the Taniwhas at Auckland airport, when the Giants were flying home after a game.

But he didn't hear from Throwback 360 Athletics again.

"I thought they must have dropped off the radar. It's pretty disappointing for the guys - they were excited."

Taniwhas captain Shane Tanner says he just wants to keep the team going so members can continue to play.

The team still plans on touring the US in December to gain international exposure, Mr Tanner says.

"At the moment we just want to start training again and get the team back together. Hopefully we can move forward and forget about what's happened."

Repeated attempts to contact Throwback 360 Athletics before deadline were unsuccessful.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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