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2016 Manila OQT

Manila OQT Shootaround Day 4: Can New Zealand defy the odds?


While most of the attention in the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila, Philippines, has been given to the hometown squad Gilas Pilipinas, Tony Parker’s swan song for France, and Canada’s pair of Eastern Conference finalists, Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, New Zealand are quietly making a name for themselves.

The Tall Blacks will enter the semi-finals of the Manila OQT as the second-seeded team in Group B, and the lowest ranked among four squads at no. 21. Yet with how they performed in their two group phase games, it looks as if New Zealand have a legitimate shot of advancing to the Olympic stage for the first time in 12 years.

It’s easy and always tempting to count New Zealand out, because for fans elsewhere, the team does not have enough NBA pedigree or they are simply considered a bunch of nobodies.

“We are playing against a lot of NBA players in this tournament. We don’t have any,” big man Isaac Fotu said.

“We got something to prove but when we come together, we always play well.”

But New Zealand pack a lot of experience and are a well-constructed team. Seven of their players have played in the 2015 FIBA Oceanias Championship and eight in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, where the Tall Blacks reached the Round of 16.

The team’s cohesion and experience showed in the group stages. In their opener, New Zealand never let Gilas assert control and took a decisive 89-80 victory, with four players doing the damage.

The Tall Blacks did almost the same 48 hours earlier when they pushed France to the limit. New Zealand were sharp from beyond the arc in that game and led by as many as 13 points, before the Les Bleus eventually took over. The Tall Blacks managed to out-rebound France, 47-36, and had eight more three-point conversions.

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Among teams competing in the semi-finals, New Zealand hold the best three-point rate and are second in scoring, rebounding, and assists. In their two group phase matches, New Zealand also had the lead for 63 minutes and 46 seconds, and were trailing for just 14:13.

READ: TALL BLACKS GAINS MORE CONFIDENCE AFTER FRANCE LOSS

Captain Mika Vukona said that being the underdogs and the least-known team in competitions is nothing new for the squad, but it also gives the team extra motivation to perform well.

“We take it on the court. We are from all the way down there. It’s something we have dealt with since we’ve been in competition. It’s really nothing to us,” Vukona said.

“We just love going out and competing with these black jerseys. We have a lot of pride for it, and that’s what drives us. Whatever anybody else has to say, we just go here and focus on what we can do.”

New Zealand has been in the Olympics only twice. In 2000, New Zealand won the FIBA Oceanias title only because Australia didn’t participate, since Sydney were already the hosts of the Olympic Games. In the 2004 Athens Olympics, two slots were given for the Oceanias region, giving New Zealand another pass.

The team, however, have not done it via the OQT. In the 2008, New Zealand made the knock-out stages but were destroyed by Greece, 75-48. In 2012, the Tall Blacks did not even advance to the second round after Macedonia defeated them 84-62 in the group phase.

#ReadMore  The process continues for Baldwin, Gilas Pilipinas

But this year, the opportunity of telling the world what they’re really made of does not get any closer for New Zealand. With an OQT format change and a stronger squad, the Tall Blacks have a legitimate shot at making it to the Rio Olympics.

Batum cleared to play for France-Turkey


FIBA-OQT-Day-1-Philippines-vs.-France-Batum-6928 Manila OQT Shootaround Day 4: Can New Zealand defy the odds? 2016 Manila OQT Basketball News  - philippine sports news

France wing man Nicolas Batum, who did not play against the Philippines and New Zealand in the group stages, is expected to suit up in the Les Bleus semifinal game against Turkey.

Batum has recently signed a contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

READ: BATUM CLEARED TO PLAY FOR FRANCE-TURKEY SEMIS

Castro retires from international competition


FIBA-OQT-Day-2-Philippines-vs.-New-Zealand-Jayson-Castro-7625 Manila OQT Shootaround Day 4: Can New Zealand defy the odds? 2016 Manila OQT Basketball News  - philippine sports news

Gilas Pilipinas playmaker Jayson Castro has announced on his Instagram account that he is retiring from international competition.

Castro will be remembered for leading Gilas to back-to-back silver medal finishes in the FIBA Asia Championship, where he was also an all-star five member twice.

Castro was also part of Gilas’ 2014 FIBA World Cup roster.

READ: CASTRO BIDS FAREWELL TO GILAS PILIPINAS

Steve Nash proud of upstart Canadian team’s OQT run


FIBA-OQT-Day-2-Steve-Nash-6950 Manila OQT Shootaround Day 4: Can New Zealand defy the odds? 2016 Manila OQT Basketball News  - philippine sports news

Canadian national basketball team General Manager Steve Nash talked about the squad’s process in putting up a competitive group for the OQT despite the absences of key players.

Nash also opened up on how Canada Basketball plans to approach the new FIBA qualification process which shall see a four-year cycle starting 2017.

READ: SO FAR SO GOOD FOR CANADA SAYS NASH

What’s next for Gilas Pilipinas and the PBA?


FIBA-OQT-Day-2-Philippines-vs.-New-Zealand-7622 Manila OQT Shootaround Day 4: Can New Zealand defy the odds? 2016 Manila OQT Basketball News  - philippine sports news

With a new FIBA calendar and the Gilas program reverting to an amateur-laden squad, what are the going to be the plans of the SBP and the PBA to ensure the Philippines stays competitive in international hoops?

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READ: IS THIS THE FINAL HUDDLE?

Thursday night’s Scores, Highlights, Top Plays


Turkey 68, Senegal 62


FULL GALLERY

HIGHLIGHTS!

MUHAMMED WITH THE DAGGER!

MENDY TO N’DIAYE!


France 66, New Zealand 59


FULL GALLERY

HIGHLIGHTS!

LES BLEUS WITH THE BALL MOVEMENT!

DE COLO GOING LOCO!


TOP 5 PLAYS FROM DAY 3


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