WELLINGTON (FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017) - New Zealand head into the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017 knowing they have already made history. But the Junior Tall Blacks want to use a tight-knit group mentality to make things difficult for their opponents.
"Getting qualified for the first time was huge for our program. It's always been a hurdle to get over Australia and we did it," said New Zealand coach Daryl Cartwright, who was an assistant on the team that lost to Australia at the buzzer in the 2014 U18 continental championship Final.
New Zealand's reward in qualifying for the 16-team event taking place in Cairo, Egypt from July 1-9 was getting drawn into Group A with European champions France, a strong Korea side and a team from the Americas to be announced by FIBA.
"For us, it's about going there and being competitive. We don't want to qualify and then go there and lose every game," Cartwright said. "We will come in with a little bit of pride. I think the only goal that we have to start with is try to finish as high in our group as we can. Everything else after that is just take as you come. At that point, it’s knockout if you want to get to the top eight."
Individually we're not good enough to turn up and out-score teams. So we have to play good team basketball. That takes commitment." - Cartwright
The play caller said his team will lack past international competition, but that doesn't mean there isn’t a strength to his side.
"I think our strength is how close knit our team is. For me it was very much about we had our systems and values in our team that were very important," he explained. "Individually we're not good enough to turn up and out-score teams. So we have to play good team basketball. That takes commitment."
That mentality helped New Zealand knock off Australia in December.
"Collectively we think we can be good but individually we are undersized and not as talented as some other teams internationally. We have to have that same mentality coming (to the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017), play good team basketball and make it a grind," Cartwright said.
The coach is currently trying to set up some test games against some European teams in the build-up to the tournament. Cartwright also wants his team to travel closer to the region well in advance to get used to the different time zone in Cairo than back home in New Zealand.