Tall Blacks challenge Rob Loe to be an enforcer
The Tall Blacks coaching staff are challenging sweet-shooting big man Rob Loe to become more of an enforcer for them close to the hoop.
After opening the four-nation basketball tournament in Shenzhen, China, yesterday with a confidence-boosting 75-66 victory over Cameroon, the New Zealanders were preparing for a much sterner physical challenge against a big and athletic Ivory Coast side tonight.
"They've got genuine size and genuine athleticism," assistant coach Paul Henare said from China today.
"Their shortest guy is about 1.90m, so they've got some tall timber, and some real physical specimens as well.
"It's going to be a step up from the Cameroon game because of that size and athleticism."
To that end the Tall Blacks coaching staff are asking for the 2.11m Loe to adapt his mainly perimeter-oriented game and step a little out of his comfort zone as they continue to search for their most adept combinations ahead of the looming World Cup in Spain.
With regular starting centre Alex Pledger unavailable with a foot injury and Oklahmoa City Thunder centre Steven Adams sitting out this campaign, the Tall Blacks were heading to Spain without a genuine five man.
So they need Loe, who recently finished up his career at Saint Louis University, to fill that need for them.
"He spreads the floor well and is starting to hit from the outside," said Henare of Loe, who contributed 10 points to the victory over Cameroon, "but we really need more from him in terms of a rebounding presence.''
"The video has shown a lack of rebounding effort, and that's what we're asking from him. It's a different role to what he's used to, but for this team that's what we need him to do."
There was some good news for the New Zealanders too, with naturalised American Casey Frank stepping up for his first court time on tour after struggling with a calf injury.
"We managed to give Casey about 10 minutes and considering the time he has had out, he played well," coach Nenad Vucinic said. Henare said the big man's passing ability had been missed and was something the team needs at this stage.
Fellow US-born Kiwi Nick Horvath continues to sit with back issues and Vucinic said he hoped to get him on court in the second tournament in China.
In terms of the positives from the opening victory over Cameroon, Heanre listed a return to shooting form by Kirk Penney (14 points) and a continuation of the slick offence being displayed by Corey Webster whose 13 points came in little more than 16 minutes on court.
Younger brother Tai Webster also had his best display of the tour at the point.
"He had something like five points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals and it was a real active time on court for him," Henare said.
Vucinic was happy with the opening effort so soon after travelling from Seoul, though he was not so content with the way his side allowed a 20-point lead to shrink in the final stanza.
"Our defence was good until the last quarter when we dropped our intensity a little," he said.
The Tall Blacks shot 69 percent from two-point range, 31 percent from beyond the arc and out-rebounded the Cameroon side 32-28. Once again their turnover count (20) was too high for anyone's liking.
They meet the Ivory Coast, who lost their opening game to local club side GuangDong at 6pm (NZT).
NZ vs CAMEROON
New Zealand 75 (Kirk Penney 14, Corey Webster 13, BJ Anthony 10, Rob Loe 10), Cameroon 66.