Te Rangi, Henry omitted from Tall Blacks squad

MISSED OUT: Young NZ Breakers star Reuben Te Rangi has not been among the 24 players to trial for the Tall Blacks squad to attend the World Cup in Spain later this year.
MISSED OUT: Young NZ Breakers star Reuben Te Rangi has not been among the 24 players to trial for the Tall Blacks squad to attend the World Cup in Spain later this year.

Troubled Southland Sharks basketballers Reuben Te Rangi and Leon Henry have both been omitted from the 24 players who will trial for Nenad Vucinic’s Tall Blacks squad to attend the World Cup in Spain later this year.

The duo, along with team-mate Shea Ili, are before the courts at present facing serious assault charges as a result of an incident in New Plymouth following an NBL game earlier this season.

Basketball NZ chief executive Iain Potter confirmed today that none of the three were considered for the trial, in Auckland on July 8 and 9.

‘‘The situation with Leon, Shea and Reuben has been an unwelcome one,’’ Potter said.

‘‘As has been well documented, the basketball community has reacted as you would expect to the assault charges laid against the three, for which they face sentencing on August 1.

‘‘Right now Nenad and the team need to fully concentrate on preparing as best they can without distraction. All three pleaded guilty and have expressed great remorse over their part in the New Plymouth incident.

‘‘But after discussion with the coaching staff and the board of Basketball New Zealand, the decision was made to not include them in the mix, regardless of the outcome on August .’’

Te Rangi and, to a lesser extent, Henry would both have had a good chance of making the squad for Spain. Te Rangi, a Tall Black in 2013, is considered one of the country’s premier young players and was fresh off an outstanding rookie season as a fully contracted player for the NZ Breakers, while Henry has been a recent international and has merits as a floor-spacing forward who can rebound the basketball.

Vucinic has invited a largely predictable group of 24 players to attend the camp in Auckland, including youngsters Jack Salt and Izayah  Mauriohooho Le’afa who played for the national team last season, and fast-rising Auckland schoolboy Tai Wynyard, MVP of the recent Nike All Asia camp in China, who at 16 will be the baby of the trials.

The group includes two veterans vying for the naturalised player spot in Casey Frank and Nick Horvath, and a number of returned players from the US college system, including Rob Loe, Isaac Fotu, Tai Webster and Richie Edwards.

‘‘Selecting players to attend Tall Black trials is not necessarily simply picking the ‘best’ players in the country,’’ Vucinic said.

‘‘As always it has the elements of immediate need as well as looking towards the future to ensure a consistent flow of players for the times ahead.

‘‘We are happy with the mix of youth and experience that we have and are looking forward to seeing them battle against each other.’’

The 24 includes a strong core of veteran Tall Black players with previous World Cup experience, including Kirk Penney (2002, ’06, ’10), Mika Vukona (’06, ’10), Tom Abercrombie (’10), Benny Anthony (’10), Lindsay Tait (’10), Frank (’10) and Alex Pledger (’10).

Vucinic said while no one was guaranteed a spot in Spain, an experienced core of players was vital for success at the sport’s pinnacle event.

There are 11 players aged 22 or younger in the 24, including six teenagers, and Vucinic was looking forward to seeing them measure themselves against the experienced competitors in the group.

‘‘Some struggle with that while others take the challenge well. For us coaches it is a unique opportunity to test them in a pressure cooker environment,’’ he said.

At the end of the camp 16 players will be named for the home series against Korea to follow in Wellington (July 15), Tauranga (July 17) and Auckland (July 19). Vucinic expected competition for places on that roster to be intense over the two days in Auckland.

‘‘The Korea series is great for us, not only to play in front of our own fans, but also to test and prepare players for what is ahead of them. We will also try to work on different combination of players throughout those three games.

Tall Blacks triallists: Thomas Abercrombie (26-years-old, Breakers, forward, 198cm), Benny Anthony (25, Wellington Saints, forward, 198cm), Everard Bartlett (28, Hawkes Bay Hawks, guard, 191cm), Duane Bailey (22, Super City Rangers, forward, 196cm), Josh Bloxham (24, Nelson Giants, guard, 186cm), Finn Delany (18, Nelson Giants, forward, 200cm), Justin  Edwards (23, Canterbury Rams, forward, 201cm), Isaac Fotu (20, University of Hawaii, forward, 203cm), Casey Frank (36, Waikato Pistons, forward, 203cm), Nick Horvath (33, Manawatu Jets, centre, 208cm), Jarrod Kenny (28, Hawkes Bay Hawks, guard, 186cm), Dyson King (21, Waikato Pistons, forward, 200cm), Rob Loe (22, University of Saint Louis, forward, 200cm), Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (17, Wellington Saints, guard, 178cm), Jordan Ngatai (21, BYU-Hawaii, forward, 198cm), Kirk Penney (33, Trabzonspor (Turkey), guard, 196cm), Alex Pledger (27, Breakers, centre, 215cm), Jack Salt (18, Waikato Pistons, centre, 205cm), Lindsay Tait (32, Wellington Saints, guard, 190cm), Tohi Smith-Milner (18, Super City Rangers, forward, 206cm), Mika Vukona (32, Nelson Giants, forward, 198cm), Corey Webster (25, Wellington Saints, guard, 185cm), Tai Webster (19, University of Nebraska, guard, 193cm), Tai Wynyard (16, Super City Rangers, forward, 201cm).