Pero Cameron holds fears for Tall Blacks

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013
Pero Cameron
JOHN HAWKINS/FAIRFAX NZ
TOO TALL: Pero Cameron taking part in a Southland Basketball Association junior mini-ball day at the Invercargill Velodrome yesterday.

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New Zealand basketball legend Pero Cameron fears the Tall Blacks' real potential won't be fulfilled because of a lack of funding and he is concerned for the flagship team's future.

Basketball New Zealand are effectively broke after it was revealed last month the high-performance arm of government agency Sport New Zealand would not be giving the organisation any funding for the Tall Blacks this year.

Cameron said he was concerned by the current situation.

The 38-year-old is an assistant coach for the Tall Blacks, along with Paul Henare.

He believed that in Thomas Abercrombie, Mika Vukona and Alex Pledger, New Zealand had the three best players - in their positions - in the Australian Basketball League at the moment.

However, Cameron felt that was unlikely to transform into success for the Tall Blacks because Basketball New Zealand effectively had no money to spend on putting an international programme together.

The 17-year Tall Black said that during his playing days several international teams were brought to New Zealand to play or they travelled to ensure the national side had the experience needed for when they got to big tournaments.

"It hurts our programme," Cameron said about the lack of funding.

"When you look at guys like Abercrombie and Mika coming through, they're here for the next five years and we miss out on really believing in them and backing these boys."

Cameron was part of the Tall Blacks' greatest achievement when in 2002 he led them to a top-four finish at the world championships.

From that tournament he was the only non-NBA player to make the all-tournament team.

Sport New Zealand high-performance funding is geared towards those who are ranked in the top three in the world or at least the top six, and the Tall Blacks were outside that at the moment.

Cameron said while he acknowledged there was a high level of expectation on sporting teams in New Zealand, he felt in the case of basketball it needed to be considered that it was truly global and a top-10 finish at a world championships shouldn't be scoffed at.

"You've got to realise that we're a top-two sport in the world [behind football] and there are a lot of good countries that have played the sport for a lot longer, and invested a lot more time and effort than New Zealand does, and we seem to make top 10 every year.

"We kind of look at it as if it's not an achievement," Cameron said.

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"Maybe we do have high expectations but top 10 in the world is still a pretty good achievement in the basketball world."

Cameron is currently based on the Gold Coast in Australia but will return again to coach the Wellington Saints in the National Basketball League.

He is also the New Zealand under-20 coach. 

- The Southland Times

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