15 Jun 2016

Tall Blacks beat Belarus

9:46 am on 15 June 2016

The New Zealand men's basketball team have beaten Belarus 80-65 in their Olympic qualifying warm-up tournament in China, with guard Tai Webster top scoring with 16 points.

The Tall Blacks' guard Tai Webster.

The Tall Blacks' guard Tai Webster. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Webster led all scorers, the 20-year-old Nebraska University player was strong on defence and found ways to keep the scoring ticking over, whether playing at the point or shooting guard position.

He enjoyed good support with brother Corey Webster (14), Isaac Fotu (13) and Jordan Ngatai (13) all providing baskets at crucial times.

Head Coach Paul Henare was pleased but not getting carried away with the performance, knowing that much tougher matches await his side on the road to Rio.

"Overall it was a good performance from the guys, the starting group played some pretty good basketball which allowed us to spread the minutes around and get everyone out to play which was great from our preparation point of view. For the time that each of them were on the floor, we made improvements from Japan and that is what we will continue to try and do throughout the rest of the tournament.

"This has been a little different, we are having to learn on the fly, without the hours and hours of practice time to get things right, it is a combination of Ross and Pero and the great job they are doing on video and catching up with players individually, plus using whatever practice time we have to get on the same page. It is different way of learning for the team but they are finding a way to get things done which is pleasing," Henare said.

Mike Karena and Ethan Rusbatch made their Tall Blacks debut as they push for inclusion in the final 12 that will be named at the end of this week to go on to Europe and then to Manila for the Olympic Qualifying tournament.

Finn Delany and Derone Raukawa sat out the game but will suit up tomorrow against Japan.