Timmins named in Tall Blacks squad for Asia Cup Qualifiers
Tall Blacks head coach, Pero Cameron on Friday named a squad of 14 athletes, including Sydney Kings' Sam Timmins, to compete in next month’s FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, which sees New Zealand take on Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong in a two-game home and away series for window one.
Joining Timmins in the squad are Taylor Britt, Walter Brown, Tobias Cameron, Max Darling, Dan Fotu, Julius Halaifonua, Tyrell Harrison, Izayah Le’afa, Alex McNaught, Jordan Ngatai, Dion Prewster, Ethan Rusbatch and Tom Vodanovich.
Coach Cameron has also named his assistant coaches for this window as Michael Fitchett, Trent Adam and Daryl Cartwright.
Window one sees the Tall Blacks travel to Chinese Taipei for their first game on February 22, before returning to New Zealand to face Hong Kong at Auckland’s Eventfinda Stadium on Sunday, February 25.
This is the first of three qualification windows for the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup, which will take place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from August 5-17 2025.
Coach Cameron says that the squad features a blend of experienced Tall Blacks veterans – including Rusbatch, Ngatai and Prewster – alongside newcomers to the black singlet in Halaifonua and Cameron.
“This group is a good mix of youth and experience; availability is always a factor with this roster at this time of year so I’m happy we can build an exciting and competitive squad in this window – they’ll be hungry for the challenge of playing against Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong,” Cameron said.
“When Dion [Prewster] first put his hand up, he made it clear he wants to be available for Olympics as well as Asia Cup qualification; I look forward to having him on board and he’s excited to be part of the Tall Blacks again.
"He’ll join Izayah, Ethan, Jordan, Tom and other seasoned Tall Blacks as players we know can perform on the international stage.”
Coach Cameron believes that having a blend of veteran experience and youth in the Tall Blacks squad helps the programme with both their immediate and long-term goals.
“One goes well with the other and the vets help these young guys coming in," he said.
"For us it’s about athlete development, giving the younger guys an opportunity to play at this level and get experience, while at the same time seeing what they can do against world-class competition. They need these opportunities to grow.
“This is a great opportunity for Tobias [Cameron], he’s come up through the national teams pathways via the Junior Tall Blacks so he’ll have a chance to show what he’s capable of in these games; I’m looking forward having him in the squad.
“And with Julius [Halaifonua], he’s big, he’s got great size, great touch and there’s a massive upside for him and our squad when he’s in it.
"He just needs experience and to play at the highest level, so this is a huge opportunity for him. Good things will come to him if he trains and plays hard.”
??Here's your Tall Blacks squad for next month’s FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers!— Tall Blacks (@TallBlacks) January 26, 2024
??Window 1 sees the Tall Blacks travel to Chinese Taipei on 22 Feb, before returning to Aotearoa on Sun 25 Feb to face Hong Kong at Auckland’s Eventfinda Stadium.
?Read more: https://t.co/M0JEp6TQkl pic.twitter.com/Ly8ijnCJw7
Coach Cameron says that the FIBA Asia Cup is a pinnacle event on the New Zealand national team radar, with the squad aiming to build on their success at the 2023 edition of this tournament; the Tall Blacks earning bronze while leading the comp in rebounding and finishing third in points per game.
“With the new windows format with FIBA, the Asia Cup is a pinnacle event for us – it’s the third biggest tournament for the Tall Blacks behind the Olympics and World Cup," Cameron said.
"There’s a huge amount of quality international teams that are part of this competition, and when you look at the top teams in the Asia region – including Australia, China, Korea, Lebanon, Japan – they’ll all world-class teams.
“It’s a tough and prestigious tournament and we’re thrilled to be part of it; it’s also a good opportunity to test the Tall Blacks depth chart too.”
Coach Cameron believes the Asia Cup Qualifiers also provide the Tall Blacks with a chance to evaluate their game and style of play against the contrasting styles used by other countries.
“I see Asia Cup Qualifiers as giving New Zealand more quality games against a lot of different styles; every nation employs different play-styles and has different strengths and focuses within their squad," he said.
"It’s a great way to test your style against another country and to see which players and programmes are developing within the different regions and countries.
"Who’s developing, what new styles are coming through, how do we stack up against them?”