• Tall Blacks conduct hoops training with Aeta community

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    Members of the Tall Blacks greet Aeta children before the training session.  Contributed photo

    Members of the Tall Blacks greet Aeta children before the training session. Contributed photo

    The New Zealand basketball team, the Tall Blacks, which is currently in Manila for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, shared their basketball skills and knowledge with 26 young adults from an Aeta Community in Florida Blanca, Pampanga.

    The children enthusiastically participated in several drills and picked up tips to hone their basic basketball skills.

    The Tall Blacks players enjoyed the experience and were impressed by the skills on show by the Aeta.

    “In all of their lives, these kids would never have imagined being inside a court like this, all the more meeting an international team like the Tall Blacks. They are encouraged to play more because of this experience,” said Ruben Casupanan, the children’s chaperone.

    “It has often been said that the most effective form of diplomacy is people to people diplomacy. Sports diplomacy is also a very potent weapon to bring people together. I’m delighted that the Tall Blacks decided to come along and share some of their skills with Filipinos,” New Zealand Ambassador David Strachan.

    The Tall Blacks are eagerly anticipating the matches on July 6 with Gilas Pilipinas and on July 7 with the French basketball team. Tall Blacks Coach Paul Henare said the team was looking forward to experiencing the Filipino’s passion and support for basketball.

    “We’ve got the Philippines first up and we understand that it is going to be a great crowd. The excitement and enthusiasm that the Filipinos show for basketball and their national program is huge. I imagine that is going to have an effect on the team. They’re going to feel bulletproof and we’re up against that.”

    Three Filipino Kiwi students, who are on basketball scholarships in the Philippines, joined the practice.

    “It’s definitely exciting to watch the Tall Blacks train because we don’t get to see them as much now that we are in the Philippines. We look forward to the Olympic qualifiers.”

    The New Zealand Embassy welcomed the Tall Blacks as the guests of honor at a reception at the Ambassador’s residence. Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin and Manuel V. Pangilinan the head of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and one of the country’s leading industrialists, joined the event.

    Coach Baldwin spoke about the contribution of both New Zealand and the Philippines in his life and career, “In all of my travels in ten countries that I have coached in, New Zealand and the Philippines are the two countries that stand out for me: Both in terms of life experience and in terms of basketball experience.”

    Talking about Baldwin, Ambassador Strachan said: “He has been one of New Zealand’s finest sports coaches of the last twenty years and I am delighted that we can share one of our national treasures with the Philippines.” Strachan added that Baldwin, an American who settled in New Zealand and coached the Tall Blacks, before going on to coach the Gilas, “exemplified a very positive aspect of globalization.”

    During the game days at FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, basketball fans can visit the New Zealand booth at the Global Village set up by FIBA organizers at the SM Mall of Asia parking grounds.

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