Basketball: Inexperienced Tall Blacks squad named to take on Australia

The Tall Blacks will have a fresh-faced look about them, when they take on Australia in their FIBA Asia Cup qualifier in Cairns on Saturday.

Coach Pero Cameron has named 10 debutants in his 12-man squad, after limiting his selection to only Australian-based players.

Uncertainty surrounding the ever-changing ANBL schedule has deterred Basketball NZ from requesting access to players from the competition and quarantine limitations across the Tasman for NZ-based players have further limited Cameron's choices.

ANBL development players Taine Murray (NZ Breakers) and Jordan Hunt (Cairns Taipans) are the lone exceptions, with both released by their respective clubs.

Despite his restrictions, Cameron is confident he'll be able to field a competitive line-up, reiterating the importance of being able to field a side, so the fixture can proceed as scheduled, particularly in light of Basketball NZ's financial woes.

"It's a proud moment and a great opportunity for all of us, but also a commitment to propel the Tall Blacks towards our bigger goals of the Asia Cup and the World Cup," Cameron says.

"That cycle stops, if we don’t play the qualifiers and each of these players understands that. 

"It's also clear to me that they know what an honour it is to represent New Zealand. Every player named, whether in test No.152 or one, has answered the call when their national team needed them. 

"They want to bleed black and that’s the No.1 reason why they are in this team."

One more familiar figure included is Mika Vukona, with the veteran forward named to lead the team in Cairns.

Alongside 18-year-old Murray, Vukona is the only other player in the squad with international experience, after wearing the Tall Blacks singlet 151 times to date, and Cameron realises he'll need every ounce of his leadership this weekend.

"It goes without saying that we’re going to need Mika," Cameron notes. "His dedication to the black singlet has been unwavering for 15 years.

There isn't a better person for this squad to be around and see what being a Tall Black means."

Tall Blacks fans may recognise the surnames of Zane Meehl and Jackson Smyth, who are the sons of former NZ representatives Warwick Meehl and Haydn Smyth respectively.

Originally scheduled for Auckland's Spark Arena, Saturday's match officially counts as the Tall Blacks' 'home' game.

"This is an extraordinary game in what is an extraordinary time," Cameron adds. "We might not be playing at home, but we were able to find plenty of home in Australia, thanks to these 12 guys."

Australia has also named a youthful and inexperienced side that features no ANBL talent, calling predominantly on players from its renowned basketball programme at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.

Tall Blacks squad: Mika Vukona, Zac Carter, Mitchell Dance, Ben Gold, Jordan Hunt, Jono Janssen, Tane Kirisome, Zane Meehl, Taine Murray, Houston O'Riley, Jackson Smyth, Joel Vaiangina

Boomers squad: Taran Armstrong, Hunter Clarke, Dyson Daniels, Hunter Goodrick, Matt Kenyon, Jack McWilliams, David Okwera, Tyrese Proctor, Patrick Ryan, Reyne Smith, Alex Toohey, Harry Wessels