Breakers' big man Alex Pledger signs three-year deal with NZ club

The New Zealand Breakers have just made one of their biggest signings with news that seven-foot tall centre Alex Pledger has confirmed his allegiance with the club.

Pledger has committed to a three year deal with the club, one that will see him join long term team mates Mika Vukona, Tom Abercrombie and Corey Webster in forming the spine of a roster that head coach Paul Henare says will be contending for another NBL championship.

"Alex will play a huge part in our fortunes over the next three years, he was the only big I was after, he knows this club, lives and breathes our values and will only go on to dominate even more with a strong off-season under his belt," said Henare.

"He is the sort of player we can build a team around, I am delighted to announce his signing in the face of fierce opposition for his signature, we don't take anyone for granted at this club, let alone 'the Chief'."

Alex Pledger of the Breakers dunks Source: Photosport

Pledger spoke of his delight in securing his immediate future, a decision.

"The key for me in committing to a new deal was having Dillon and Pauli on board as GM and head coach, it feels to me like there is a renewed energy at the club, which is something I am keen to be a part of," said Pldeger.

"I admit though to sitting on the fence for a few days wondering what I was doing, Bailee (Alex's partner) said to me 'flip a coin' – heads for breakers, tails for another team – and there were others chasing pretty hard."

The man known as Chief or Pledge also points out that this is not about comfort zones, far from it, he believes there is plenty to come from the club and from himself personally.

Breakers centre Alex Pledger soars to the hoop Source: Photosport

Basketball NZ, Tall Blacks take aim at FIBA after pinning 'ugly' win against Lebanon on tough travel schedule

Basketball New Zealand has re-ignited its call for more High Performance Sport New Zealand funding while also taking a shot at FIBA after the Tall Blacks moved to the cusp of World Cup qualification.

The Tall Blacks’ 63-60 win over Lebanon in Rotorua was marred by a poor shooting performance in which the hosts only netted 28 per cent of their attempted shots.

Both teams struggled after a marathon 43-hour travel schedule which saw the Tall Blacks leave Beirut at shortly after their 107-66 win over Syria last Friday

They arrived in Rotorua on Sunday morning at 2:30am.

Head coach Paul Henare said the draining journey reflected in the match.

"It was just a bit disappointing with the scheduling from FIBA that it had to be a grind out game," he said.

"It was never going to be pretty, it was always going to be ugly and I'm sure that's not what FIBA are trying to achieve."

Basketball NZ CEO Iain Potter says the sport’s governing body needs to look at the bigger picture.

"I don't think FIBA has fully appreciated the travel logistics to get from the Middle East to New Zealand.

"It's no surprise the players were demonstrating some mental and physical fatigue."

But the travel has also reiterated Basketball NZ's calls for more government funding.

Each window costs the organisation NZ$100,000 and this year’s series of qualifiers are particularly taking its toll, Potter said.

"We are going to run at a loss this year because of the four windows in this calendar year.

"It constrains us at times in terms of what we can do with the team."

And their case is now becoming stronger to HPSNZ.

World Cup qualification is within reach with home wins over Jordan and Syria later this year likely enough to book their ticket to China.

Both teams struggled in last night’s World Cup qualifier after clocking up 43 hours of travel earlier this week. Source: 1 NEWS



Watch: Lebanon falter in final seconds to Tall Blacks' desperate defence as game-winning shot misses rim completely

The Tall Blacks have claimed a miraculous 63-60 comeback win in their World Cup qualifier match against Lebanon tonight thanks to clutch free throw shooting and desperate defence.

The Tall Blacks were playing catch up for almost the entire match in Rotorua with poor shooting from the field seriously hindering their cause.

The home side shot just under 28 per cent from the field in tonight’s game – seriously behind their opponents who shot 38 per cent.

The main issue came from behind the arc with the Tall Blacks making just four of 23 three-point attempts.

It saw them fall behind to a 7-18 deficit after the first quarter, but strong plays from the Webster brothers and Shea Ili saw them claw back to sit 25-25 at halftime.

The game remained a seesaw of poor shooting until the final minute of the match with Lebanon leading 60-59.

Lebanon held possession as the clock ticked down but New Zealand’s defence forced a rare turnover as the visitors were called for travelling.

That led to big offensive play at the other end with Corey Webster putting up a two-pointer.

The shot missed but he managed to get his own rebound and dish the ball to Ili who went for a shot of his own but was fouled.

Ili remained composed at the free throw line to score both shots and give the Tall Blacks a 61-60 lead with 20 seconds left.

The defence again shut down Lebanon as they were forced into a miracle three-point shot with six seconds to go, but the shot missed the rim completely and was rebounded by Reuben Te Rangi.

Te Rangi then put the game on ice with another pair of made free throws.

After getting a late call up to the team, Corey Webster made his presence known in the match. The experienced guard finished with 11 points, four rebounds and two assists.

His efforts were matched by his brother Tai who scored 13 points along with seven rebounds, four assists and a steal.

With the win, the Tall Blacks sit top of their World Cup qualifier pool on seven wins from eight matches – one point ahead of Lebanon.

With the top three teams from each pool qualifying for the World Cup in China next year, the result boosts the Kiwi side’s chances immensely.

The Tall Blacks now have two months off before their next match when they host Jordan in Christchurch on November 29.



As it happened: Tall Blacks come from behind in final minute to win qualifier against stunned Lebanon

Relive 1 NEWS NOW's live updates of tonight's World Cup qualifier match between the Tall Blacks and Lebanon at Energy Events Centre in Rotorua.

FT: NZL 63-60 LBN

The Tall Blacks win it! What a final two minutes from the home side. Their defence forces Lebanon to crack and they rise to the moment at the free throw line. It's an ugly win and Henare will have them shooting hoops 'til the cows come home so they can find some rhythm again but defence has won them this contest. That's all from us tonight. Enjoy you're evening.

4Q: 0:06, NZL 63-60 LBN

Lebanon put up a three AND IT'S AN AIR BALL! HE'S MISSED THE RIM COMPLETELY. Te Rangi gets the rebound and is fouled immediately. He goes to the free throw line and sinks both. That should do it!

4Q: 0:20, NZL 61-60 LBN

Webster puts up a two, misses, gets the offensive rebound and dishes to Ili. Ili drives and gets fouled! He makes the first free throw to tie it. HE GETS THE SECOND. NZ TAKE THE LEAD! 20 SECONDS LEFT! Timeout called by Lebanon.

4Q: 0:45, NZL 59-60 LBN

Tall Blacks defence puts the pressure on again and they force a turnover! There's a travel called and the Tall Blacks have possession. One point game. 45s left. 

4Q: 0:52, NZL 59-60 LBN

Lebanon get one of two free throws at the other end before Loe lays in a two-pointer at the other end! One point in it!

4Q: 1:10, NZL 57-59 LBN

Corey Webster goes for a three and gets fouled! He misses the first. Gets the second but misses the third! Yikes, big moment in the game there. Could've tied it but the pressure gets to him.

4Q: 1:21, NZL 56-59 LBN

Tall Blacks force the shot clock violation again! 

4Q: 1:46, NZL 56-59 LBN

Lebanon sink a 18 foot jumper after the timeout before Lebanon foul Tai Webster. He misses the first badly. Gets the second. Three in it.

4Q: 2:25, NZL 55-57 LBN

Lebanon drive to the rim and Loe comes up with the big block! Lebanon still in possession but four seconds on the shot clock. Timeout called.

4Q: 2:45, NZL 55-57 LBN

Mojuk converts two free throws of his own at one end before Fotu is fouled at the other. He sinks both! Still two points.

4Q: 3:19, NZL 53-55 LBN

Tai Webster drives to the rim and gets fouled. Gets on of two free throws to make it a two point ball game.

4Q: 3:25, NZL 52-55 LBN

NZ force the shot clock violation again as Lebanon can't find an opening. Just need to convert at the other end!

4Q: 4:23, NZL 52-55 LBN

Webster calls for the pick and roll. Fotu helps out and gets it inside to score again. Three points in it.

4Q: 5:24, NZL 50-54 LBN

Fotu goes in the paint and gets the shot to go. Deficit cut to four.

4Q: 5:41, NZL 46-54 LBN

Tall Blacks persist with the three pointer try and get back in this contest but it's just not working. At some point someone has to muscle up and try a drive to the rim or something.

4Q: 7:51, NZL 46-54 LBN

Lebanon sink another dagger and despite the Tall Blacks' best attempts to respond at the other end, they're in trouble.

4Q: 8:51, NZL 45-51 LBN

Lebanon start with a pair of high pick and rolls and they work perfectly. The second one leads to a three pointer in the corner and puts the Kiwis on the back foot immediately.

4Q: 10:00, NZL 45-46 LBN

Back into it.

3Q: 0:00, NZL 45-46 LBN

Webster nails his own pair of free throws to end the quarter and it's a one-point game with one quarter to go!

3Q: 0:43, NZL 40-45 LBN

Majok drives to the rim twice and gets fouled twice to head to the free throw line. The big man sinks them all and moves to 13 points on the night.

3Q: 2:20, NZL 38-38 LBN

Ili sinks the 15 foot jumper to tie it up!

3Q: 3:26, NZL 36-38 LBN

Corey Webster sinks another three point dagger to keep NZ close. He needs some help down there though.

3Q: 5:04, NZL 33-34 LBN

A couple of careless turnovers really hurting the Tall Blacks right now. Lebanon are struggling to score but it doesn't matter if NZ can't even got a shot up at the other end.

3Q: 7:00, NZL 31-34 LBN

Tall Blacks get three offensive rebounds and they still can't find the hoop as the defence tightens around the rim. Lebanon make them pay at the other end with a big three.

3Q: 8:07, NZL 31-29 LBN

Tai Webster off to a red hot start for the Tall Blacks. Three shots, three made.

3Q: 10:00, NZL 25-25 LBN

Back underway in Rotorua with Tall Blacks in possession.

HT: NZL 25-25 LBN

Corey Webster hits a two-point buzzer beater to tie things up. MUCH stronger second quarter all round from the Tall Blacks but still some issues to pan out. Their fixation with the three-point game is seeing more shots go in but they've also given up four turnovers driving to the paint and then passing out with the ball sailing out of bounds. Henare won't be happy. Let's see if his speech fires up the home team. Ili the best performer so far - 7 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds.

2Q: 1:55, NZL 23-23 LBN

All tied up as the clock ticks down. Both sides driving to the rim looking for fouls and free throws to find a lead.

2Q: 3:23, NZL 19-18 LBN

Lebanon persist with the three-point shot and they continue to miss. At the other end, Ili drives to the basket for a left-handed lay-up before draining a three pointer to give the Tall Blacks their first lead!

2Q: 5:21, NZL 14-18 LBN

Corey Webster comes to the party with a three of his own. That bumps the field goal percentage to 15 per cent. Lebanon call a timeout to sort out their own offensive woes.

2Q: 6:14, NZL 11-18 LBN

The shooting woes continue at the other end despite the defensive prowess. To put it in perspective. Lebanon is shooting at 34% right now which isn't great... NZL is shooting at 12%.

2Q: 7:37, NZL 10-18 LBN

Ili drives to the basket and fires to Tai Webster on the arc. Webster puts it up and it's in! Lebanon look to respond but they're fouled for an illegal screen. Tall Blacks in control so far.

2Q: 8:40, NZL 7-18 LBN

Finally some defensive pressure from the Tall Blacks and they force a shot clock violation. Baby steps.

2Q: 10:00, NZL 7-18 LBN

Back underway.

1Q: 0:00, NZL 7-18 LBN

First quarter in the books and Lebanon are fired up. They push the lead out with a pair of jump shots and a two-point buzzer beater to take a convincing lead. Tall Blacks just look out of sorts right now. Too many forced three-pointers and it's seeing them fall behind big time. Three quarters to turn it around.

1Q: 1:57, NZL 7-12 LBN

Lebanon's Majok is dominating the game at both ends right now. He's nullifying drives to the rim by the Tall Blacks and scoring in the paint at the other. Kiwis need to find an answer.

1Q: 4:45, NZL 5-10 LBN

Lebanon push out to a five point lead with a pair of jumpers. Kiwis still haven't found their range at the other end despite some great defence from Vukona and Fotu. 

1Q: 6:22, NZL 5-6 LBN

Corey Webster is in the game already for Ili. Kiwis just aren't looking fluid on attack so this may be the injection they need. Defence has gotten a lot better in the key though.

1Q: 8:17, NZL 4-4 LBN

Strong start from Fotu as he's already picked up a couple of boards but Lebanon finding inside paths early on. NZ defence needs to sharpen up.


Kiwis win the tip-off and we're underway in Rotorua.


The Tall Blacks face their biggest challenge of their World Cup qualifying campaign so far tonight as they square off in a top-of-the-table clash with Lebanon in Rotorua.

Both teams have only suffered one loss in their respective roads to China so far but the Kiwis sit above them in Group E due to a better points differential.

Still, the Tall Blacks will be looking to cement themselves with a big win tonight with both South Korea and Jordan close behind in the standings as well.

The top three teams from each pool qualify for next year's World Cup meaning while the Tall Blacks are in the driver's seat right now, two losses could see them plummet out of contention.

With that in mind, coach Paul Henare has surprised fans with a call-up for guard Corey Webster.

Webster was omitted from the squad for the second round of qualifying to allow him to rest and prepare for the upcoming NBL season, having just finished a stint overseas.

But after a discussion between the two, Henare has called Webster in to replace Ethan Rusbatch as an experienced go-to player.

"This was not an easy decision, but one we have made with the best interests of the team in mind," Henare said.

"It's no reflection on the way Ethan has carried himself these past two weeks. He has taken this news with obvious disappointment, but [also] great composure and professionalism.

"Corey is a quality international basketballer and brings all of his experience and scoring ability to the group, as well as leadership as a senior player. He knows what is required to win big games and will relish the chance to have an impact."


NZL: Tai Webster, Jarrod Kenny, Tohi Smith-Milner, Reuben Te Rangi, Mika Vukona, Jordan Ngatai, Finn Delany, Corey Webster, Dion Prewster, Shea Ili, Rob Loe, Isaac Fotu

LBN: Nadim Souaid, Ahmad Ibrahim, Gerard Hadidian, Alter Majok, Ali Haidar, Jad Khalil, Amir Saoud, Charles Tabet, Rodrigue Akl, Elias Rustom, Elie Stephan, Daniel Faris

Finn Delany, Tall Blacks in action during the FIBA Asia Cup 8-20 August 2017 in Lebanon. Photo: FIBA
Finn Delany, Tall Blacks in action during the FIBA Asia Cup. Source: Photosport


Tall Blacks to only sing Māori national anthem ahead of Lebanon Test to fit in haka

Only the Māori rendition of the New Zealand national anthem will be sung before the All Blacks’ clash with Lebanon tonight in Rotorua, Basketball New Zealand has announced.

The decision was made to only sing E Ihowā Atua because of FIBA’s strict rules around time allocation for pre-match rituals.

The Tall Blacks were granted an extra minute but even with two minutes, they don’t have time to do both versions of the anthem and their haka, Tū Kaha O Pango Te Kahikatea.

“We understand where FIBA are coming from and the fact that we one more minute than any other team in the world is a privilege, not a right,” New Zealand Basketball chief executive Iain Potter said.

"Cutting Tū Kaha was not an option. We’re likely to alternate the English and Māori versions of the anthem at FIBA matches, and sing the full version when the rules allow." 

New Zealand players perform a haka.
New Zealand Tall Blacks v China.
FIBA World Cup Basketball Qualifier, Spark Arena, Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday 1 July 2018 © Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga /
Cutting the haka was not an option, Basketball New Zealand said. Source: Photosport