19 Aug 2017

Tall Blacks happy playing the part of underdog

6:49 pm on 19 August 2017
Tall Blacks Shea Ili

Tall Blacks Shea Ili Photo: FIBA

The Tall Blacks would be happy to be cast as the underdogs when they meet Australia in the semi-final of the FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut.

Australia were without their NBA players, but were the favourites and the in-form team at the tournament, undefeated through pool play and beating China 97-71 in their quarter final.

They had a team stacked with ANBL experience and a core who had played considerable international basketball over recent years.

New Zealand were also without their top players, with the youthful Tall Blacks team being made up of mostly semi-professional players.

Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare said his young side would not be fazed by going into the meeting as underdogs.

"We have a bit of a tradition of playing well as underdogs and I guess in most big international games at FIBA tournaments, that is very much the case."

"Australia is a strong team, well coached and hungry for success as many of their players fight for inclusion in the later FIBA World Cup Qualifying windows," he said.

But, he said, his team would also be eager to learn and not frightened of any challenge put in front of them.

Henare stressed that the effort to date has been very much a squad one, with everyone playing their part.

Tip off is scheduled for 3:30am Sunday NZT.