Monday, August 30, 2010

New Zealand Team Preview

After several years and a 2002 FIBA World Championship Final Four appearance under Tab Baldwin , the Tall Blacks enter FIBA 2010 led by Head Coach Nenad Vucinic as a veteran-laden but very undersized squad.  Offensively, New Zealand is led by former Wisconsin Badger great 6'4" Kirk Penney, who was at it again during Tall Blacks recent preparation games, going off for 42 points in 104-103 overtime thriller against the host Slovenia in a match where 4 Tall Black players fouled out and the Slovenians, led by several NBAers, shot 42 free throws.  Penny is a strong guard/wing who can create for himself, knock down 3's and find people.  Stopping him can be the key to defeating New Zealand.

As usual New Zealand will be massively under-sized, with the inexperienced 7'1" Alex Pledger (Belmont Abbey College, NCAA Division II) their only genuine big man.  6'6" veteran Pero Cameron is a burly, strong but very undersized post player who knows his way around the paint but lacks the explosiveness and athleticism to have an impact over 40 minutes - he is also 36 years old.  After that, 6'8" Craig Bradshaw (Winthrop), who was MVP of the Big South Conference championships in his senior year and also played in the Turkish Euroleague club Efes Pilsen, a top European club, provides some perimeter-oriented play as a 3/4.  6'4" Mika Vukona is yet another undersized post who has been starting for the Tall Blacks and brings rebounding and finishing ability.  Complementing Penney in the back court is 6'4" Phill Jones, the all-time leading scorer in the New Zealand pro league and a five-time league MVP.  6'2" Lindsay Tait should get ample opportunity to run the show at the point for the Tall Blacks.  6'6" Tom Abercrombie played part of one season (2007-08) at Washington State in the Pac-10 before returning home to play and has had several double digit scoring efforts recently.

Tall Blacks went 3-6 during their recent prep games including victories against heavyweights Russia and Slovenia and very close losses to Croatia and Serbia. But they were also blown away by Turkey and had a disappointing defeat against Jordan in their final buildup game.  New Zealand faces Lithuania and then Spain in their first two games which should provide a litmus test for how well they stack up.

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