Steven Adams named in initial Tall Blacks squad

By Jamie Wall

The saga of Steven Adams’ availability for the Tall Blacks has taken another twist today, with the Oklahoma City Thunder centre named in the initial 25-man squad for the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup.

The final 12 players will be selected from today’s ‘long list’ for the World Cup, with all players invited to attend a selection camp in Auckland in early August.

Adams has been at loggerheads over his availability for the Tall Blacks ever since he made his NBA debut, with the 25-year-old constantly withholding his talents and claiming that Basketball NZ doesn’t do enough to help the game at the grassroots level. However, rumours have since emerged that Adams is keen to play in the World Cup, provided the revenue made off his appearance is given back to the basketball community.

However, Basketball NZ have responded that they have not heard of any such offers. In a tweet sent over the weekend, they stated:

"These inaccurate and misleading claims are not sourced from BBNZ, and despite the inference to the contrary, nor do we believe they are sourced from Steven or Steven's agency."

According to BBNZ’s press release today, Adams’ inclusion on the list is “not a confirmation of the Kiwi centre’s availability, rather it allows for those conversations to continue.”

Nonetheless, Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare is delighted at the quality and depth of players putting their hand up for final selection and is relishing that challenge along with his assistant coaches in early August.

“Throughout this World Cup qualifying programme and even as far back as the 2017 Asia Cup we have looked to build our depth chart, at times by design and at times our hand was forced with player unavailability, but always in a positive way towards exposing more players to the Tall Blacks culture and having them ready to play on the international stage now or sometime in the future.” he said in the press release.

“We have arguably the most amount of talent we have had across all positions that we have ever had. It is a very good place to be in with our international programme. It makes the final selection tougher and choosing the final team will not be easy, but that is a good problem for me as a coach and for the selection panel to have.”

14 players will eventually be selected to travel to a World Cup preparation camp in Japan. The final 12 to travel to China and play at the World Cup will then be named ahead of the two games against Canada in Australia on August 20 and 21 in Sydney.

Tall Blacks initial 25-man World Cup long list

Guards: Shea Ili, Tai Webster, Jarrod Kenny, Corey Webster, Ethan Rusbatch, Taylor Britt, Kruz Perrott-Hunt, Taine Murray

Small Forwards: Tom Abercrombie, Jordan Ngatai, Reuben Te Rangi, Dan Fotu

Power Forwards: Mika Vukona, Finn Delany, Isaac Fotu, Max Darling, Tom Vodanovich, Yanni Wetzell, Tohi Smith-Milner

Centres: Rob Loe, Alex Pledger, Steven Adams, Tyrell Harrison, Yuat Alok, Sam Timmins