Emerging Tall Blacks face height, funding issues
New Zealand coach Dean Vickerman eyes next month's world university games in China with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation.
The anticipation surrounds the chance to take a team of budding Kiwi hoops talent on to the international stage where they'll get to test themselves against some of the best young basketballers on the planet.
The trepidation is twofold: how will his undersized men's squad cope in Shenzhen (August 13-23), and more to the point how deep will they have to dig into thgeir own pockets to meet the $4500 per player?
Vickerman, a Breakers assistant currently coaching the Pistons in the New Zealand NBL, is confident he has a lineup capable of causing a surprise or two at an event that's seen some of the world's best grace its stage over the years.
He just hopes some frantic fund-raising efforts can reduce the cost to a manageable level for a group that includes four players plying their trade in the American collegiate game and the other eight all affiliated with Kiwi NBL teams.
His lineup includes Dion Prewster, Richie Edwards, Josh Bloxham and Morgan Nathan who all performed for the Junior Tall Blacks at the 2009 world under-19 championship in Auckland.
He would also have liked to have had their '09 team-mate, and fringe Tall Black big man, Rob Loe, who's at the University of Saint Louis. But Loe has elected instead to go on a tour of Canada with his college side.
"It's a level of competition where we're probably lacking in New Zealand basketball," said Vickerman. "Right now we don't really have anything like a development team for the Tall Blacks, so this is a great way to get some of these young kids some international experience."
The university games draws a quality international field, with the USA sending a team including a trio of their gold medal-winning under-19s from Auckland and Australia also pulling in the best from their large contingent of youngsters at American colleges.
"How well we come together will influence how well we compete," added Vickerman, confirming his team would play buildup games in China prior to the event.
"We're certainly not a group blessed with size, but it's a great chance for us to try and identify some of the kids for the future of New Zealand basketball."
Vickerman admitted the cost was on the high side for the youngsters, but he was hopeful sponsorship backing could bring that down.
"Not too many university kids have got $4500 in their pocket, but we're looking to see what we can do to get all the kids over there."
New Zealand has been drawn in a pool with Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Philippines and Japan.
Emerging Tall Blacks squad for World University Games: Josh Bloxham (Nelson Giants/NZ Breakers), Sam Dempster (Nelson Giants), Dion Prewster (Wellington Saints), Jordan Mills (Wellington Saints), Richie Edwards (Valparaiso University), Matt DeMarcus (UCLA), Rory Fannon (Utah Valley University), David Clarke (Oregon Tech), Adrian Taylor (Christchurch Cougars), Morgan Nathan (Bay Hawks), Gareth Dawson (Southland Sharks), Nick Barrow (Auckland Pirates).
Coach: Dean Vickerman
Manager: Chris Millbank
What did you make of the Tall Blacks' World Cup campaign?