Tall Blacks ready to test mettle against 'better competition' in Fiba Asia, says assistant coach
Pero Cameron and Nenad Vucinic believe Fiba's decision to move top Oceania teams to the Asian zone will be good for the sport. Jerome Ascano

NEW Zealand is eager to take on new challenges with the Kiwis now included in Asia zone in international basketball, according to assistant coach Pero Cameron.

A member of the Tab Baldwin-coached New Zealand squad that advanced to the 2002 Fiba World Championship, Cameron said Fiba’s decision doesn't make the road to the World Cup or Olympics easier but the quality competition in Asia will still be beneficial to the Tall Blacks.

Before Fiba merged the Oceania teams to the Asia zone, New Zealand only had to go through Australia, a perennial powerhouse in the Oceania region to reach the big events.

This time the Tall Blacks will have to play against the likes of China, Iran and the Philippines to make the Fiba World Cup and in the Olympics.

"I think it's really good competition," said Cameron, who is in the country for the World Hoops Clinic for coaches.

"We get to play a lot more tougher games. Before, we have to beat Australia. I'm not too sure how many times we beat them. It felt good when we won but we lost quite a bit to advance to the bigger stage. Here is our opportunity."

Former Ivory Coast coach Nenad Vucinic, who is also in the country for the clinic where Gilas Pilipinas consultant Tab Baldwin is one of the instructors, also believes the move of Australia and New Zealand will be good or the game.

"I'm looking forward to the Asian Cup in Beirut," said Vucinic, who coaches a club team in Lebanon.

"I'm looking forward to see how this new zone is created. I think it's a great move for the sport and it will be great to see the outcome in the next few years from that merger between Asia and Oceania."

Cameron was also in Manila last year during the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament where they were bracketed with Gilas Pilipinas.

"I wouldn't say it is easier but the competition is better. We get to play a lot more games and have the same opportunity to qualify for the big tournaments," said Cameron.

Cameron said the Tall Blacks look forward to the upcoming Fiba World Cup qualifiers in a series of home-and-away matches. New Zealand is in Group A with reigning Asia champion China, South Korea and Hong Kong.

"These games will be the biggest tournaments that we are being a part of. If it's not the Olympics or the world championships, then these games will be very big for us. It's spread out throughout the year," said Cameron.


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