Re: Australia v NZ olympic qualifying hoops series
The Tall Blacks kick off their three-game Olympic qualifying series against the Australian Boomers in Melbourne on Monday night in a positive frame of mind.
Although New Zealand has won only five of its last 14 games, coach Nenad Vucinic said his players were as ready as they would ever be.
With mixed form in past weeks, three of the Tall Blacks' five wins were against Venezuela. They also had wins over Slovenia and Croatia.
Vucinic said he was happy with the way his side had been playing taking into account the crammed schedule across four different countries.
The biggest revelation over the past few weeks has been point guard Kirk Penney, who has been a consistent top scorer.
And to get past the talented Boomers line-up, Penney will have to be on song again - with a lot of help from his team-mates.
Despite the lack of wins lately, the extra court time will have at least given the Tall Blacks a chance to gel as a team.
And with Vucinic taking over from Tab Baldwin in the head coaching role, that time may have been extra valuable for players to familiarise themselves with new systems.
The Boomers are always a tough side, and the Tall Blacks may struggle to compete with their size and athleticism.
Led by the classy Sam Mackinnon and with clutch players like Brad Newley and Darnell Mee bolstering their ranks, they will be a huge step up in the Tall Blacks' campaign.
The Kiwis arrived in Australia on Friday and are confident of putting in a strong effort.
The most worrying concern pre-game is Tony Rampton, who has picked up an abdominal injury. He is expected to be ready for Monday night.
Tall Blacks squad:
Mark Dickel, Paul Henare, Phill Jones, Kirk Penney, Lindsay Tait, Paora Winitana, Dillon Boucher, Craig Bradshaw, Pero Cameron (capt), Casey Frank, Mika Vukona, Tony Rampton.
David Anderson, Wade Helliwell, Russell Hinder, Luke Kendall, Sam Mackinnon (capt), Darnell Mee, Patrick Mills, Brad Newley, Damien Ryan, Glen Saville, Jason Smith, Mark Worthington.
FIBA Oceania Championships
Tall Blacks v Australia, in Melbourne (9pm NZT)
Tall Blacks v Australia, in Sydney (9pm NZT)
Tall Blacks v Australia, in Brisbane (9:30pm NZT)