Eric Devendorf (193-G-87, college: Syracuse) is rated as one of the best players to grace a Kiwi basketball court. Sam Worthington puts the tough (and not-so-tough) questions to the Saints' import ahead of tonight's NBL home game against Nelson.
Q. Who are the best players in the New Zealand league?
A. I've only been out here a short time but Lindsay [Saints point guard Lindsay Tait] is one of the better players I've played with. Thomas Abercrombie [Waikato forward] is a good player, those are two that stand out in my head. And Josh Pace [Hawke's Bay guard], I've been playing with and against him for a while so I know what he can do.
You are left-handed but shoot with your right. Why?
I write left-handed, eat left-handed but everything else is right-handed. I throw a baseball, throw a football, all right-handed. I don't know, that's just how it was growing up.
What's your favourite place to eat in Wellington?
It's got to be Public man, that's where I've been going. It's a good place. I get the chicken sandwich with egg on it, that's one of my favourites.
What's the most exciting thing you've done in New Zealand so far?
Just seeing different things with the family, we went to the museum [Te Papa] and seeing stuff we wouldn't see back home. Being right here on the water is real neat, to have my daughter come here and experience something like that.
No bungy jumping?
No, I'm not into all that.
Do you understand rugby?
I understand it a lot more since I've been out here. I still don't really know what's going on but I'm starting to get the hang of it.
Are you a ruck or a lineout man?
I couldn't tell you.
You've signed with the Melbourne Tigers. A good career move?
Yeah, it's a good competitive league and Melbourne's a good city to be in for family, and everything else will be taken care of. It's a good step forward and I'm looking forward to it.
There's whispers of an NBA scout coming to New Zealand to watch you. Care to divulge?
That's what I heard so hopefully it's true. I've just got to keep working hard, playing hard and getting wins and everything else will take care of itself.
I think it's the Phoenix Suns, that's as much as I know.
Steve Nash is getting old ...
He's all right, he's going to be fine.
Where do you hope to be this time next year?
Hopefully, playing back home. That's got to be the No1 goal. But just to be making money and taking care of my family. Wherever I am, that's the No1 thing.
Which NBA team do you support?
Whoever supports me, that's who I'm going to support. I always liked the Detroit Pistons coming from Michigan I'm a fan of the Pistons.
Who will win the NBA this season?
I feel the Lakers. You've always got to be the favourite when you've got the best player in the league [Kobe Bryant].
Who is LeBron James going to sign with?
I've heard Chicago, I've heard New York. Wherever he feels himself and his family are most comfortable being. Obviously money talks, but you want to be where you're most comfortable.
Who is the funniest player on the Saints and why?
We've got a couple of jokesters on the team, man. I'd probably have to say either George [Le'afa] or Nick [Horvath]. Nick's got a kind of dry, dour sense of humour but it's funny, if you know where he's coming from. He's a good man, very intelligent.
What have you made of the Saints setup?
It's great. The first thing was just making sure my family was good and everybody was comfortable. Right away, when I came here, that was the first thing that they looked after and made sure that my daughter was taken care of and had everything in terms of my family needs. Everything else is going to fall into place as far as basketball goes. I've been loving the experience in Wellington.
The team must be fired up to play Nelson?
Yeah, obviously Nelson's a good team, they've got a couple of veterans on their team in Phill Jones and Co. We've got to go out there and play how we've played in the last five games and everything else will take care of itself.
A win would be crucial to help finish second and get a home semi?
That would be big, knowing if we can beat Nelson there's definitely a good chance. If we can get that win that would be big. Every win is good but knowing we can beat the second-placed team and jump ahead in the standings, it would be all right.
Is winning the league's scoring title an aim?
That doesn't mean much to me. I just came out here and kinda set a goal, to get my name back out there as far as other leagues go, use this as a stepping stone. I think I've done that pretty well so I'm going to continue to play my game and everything else will take care of itself.
HOW THEY LINE UP
What: National Basketball League
Where: TSB Bank Arena, Wellington
When: 7pm tonight
Saints: Lindsay Tait, Eric Devendorf, Leon Henry, Casey Frank, Nick Horvath, Erron Maxey, Troy McLean, Damien Ekenasio, George Le'afa, Ross Taurima, Randall Bishop
Nelson: Mike Fitchett, Phill Jones, Mika Vukona, Michael Harrison, Tony Rampton, Darryl Jones, Josh Bloxham, Brad Maclachlan, Nico Ritschny, Samuel Dempster, Bronson Beri, Ben Wright
Tall Blacks finish third in Atlas Challenge after beating hosts China - 4 days ago
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The Tall Blacks have finished third at the Atlas Challenge in China, after a fiercely fought and often controversial playoff match against the host nation on Sunday night, winning 90-84. Rebounding after what was by their own admission a disappointing semifinal performance, the Tall Blacks responded to the urging of their coach to "overcome adversity" and ground out a win, despite losing three players to five fouls and ending the game with a further three on the brink of fouling out. Thom... [read more]
The Tall Blacks have finished third at the Atlas Challenge in China, after a fiercely fought and often controversial playoff match against the host nation on Sunday night, winning 90-84. Rebounding after what was by their own admission a disappointing semifinal performance, the Tall Blacks responded to the urging of their coach to "overcome adversity" and ground out a win, despite losing three players to five fouls and ending the game with a further three on the brink of fouling out. Thomas Abercrombie (198-F/G-87, college: Washington St., agency: Priority Sports) was clutch on the big occasion, with a game high 27 points on 9 of 14 shooting, including 4 of 7 from deep and a perfect 5 from 5 from the free throw line. Isaac Fotu (203-F-93, college: Hawaii) poured in 21 points on 8 of 13, including an ice cold three point dagger in the final minute of the game to gap the Chinese. With Corey Webster (188-G-88, college: Lambuth) in early foul trouble, Breakers point guard Shea Ili (184-G-92) had a career night with 15 points and 5 boards, and was a constant menace on defence. Coach Paul Henare was proud of the passion shown by his side, not to mention the ability to stay calm in the face of immense pressure, including a delay of the game by almost an hour before tip-off. "I am very proud of the boys, any time you prepare for a game and you are on court and finishing your warm up, and they tell you the game is delayed 50 minutes, that is tough for anyone to deal with. "I spoke to them and said we have to deal with it, it is what it is. I said I wouldn't like to be in their position but they had to find some way to come out and get themselves going, and while we didn't get a good start, which wasn't ideal, I did have a feeling that if we could just chip away at it we would be fine." The game began in controversial circumstances: after officials nominated both teams in white uniforms, the game was delayed while China sourced their red uniform from their hotel. What was initially set to be a 15-minute delay turned into 50, with the players waiting on court for the opening buzzer. Once the game was finally underway, Corey Webster and Mika Vukona (197-F-82) were quickly in foul trouble in what would soon be a feature of the game. The Tall Blacks described several of the ref's calls as "curious", saying players were "confused but all the more determined to come out on top" in their final game in China before travelling to Europe. The Tall Blacks had a total of 31 fouls called on them, with Tai Jack Webster (193-G-95), Ili and Vukona all fouling out of the game. China got away to a fast start in a first quarter that contained 13 foul calls from the officials, giving no chance for the game to flow. But a 21-9 lead was cut to 25-23 and from then on the two sides were closely matched. The composure came from the men in white, though, as they made clutch shots down the stretch, with Fotu and Thomas Abercrombie both making big threes, while defensively they shut down the Chinese and restricted their scoring options. The New Zealanders smashed the boards 38-21, shot an impressive 58 per cent from the two but struggled from deep, making six of 27 attempts. Henare was pleased that lessons were learned from the Tall Blacks' semifinals disappointment the previous night, and highlighted some key players to Sunday night's success. "Tai Jack Webster's leadership of the group, even early on when things weren't going well, he was leading well. I did see a more conscious effort from the guys to what we are trying to achieve, there were definite improvements from yesterday to today. "The adversity of being down early, at least 10 down in the first quarter, to peg that back to be down by two at the first break, that was great to turn around in such a short time. Corey got in foul trouble, all our bigs got into foul trouble, which allowed different guys to get opportunities and different guys to step up. "Tommy (Thomas Abercrombie) was outstanding throughout the game, he put the team on his shoulders and was really impressive. He is a class act, he is always capable of that sort of thing but he understood the need when others were down, and it was great to see him take on that responsibility for the team. "Shea (Ili) had an immediate impact, his stat line at halftime was something like six minutes, 10 points, two offensive rebounds and three fouls, he was just awesome and is understanding the game a lot more. "He still has his moments but the energy he brings to this team outweighs what I call inexperienced mistakes, but what he brings is outstanding." The team now faces a long travel day to Europe, where they will be based in Latvia and Lithuania for 10 days, with a week of training before three final tune up games ahead of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila from July 4-10. Courtesy of: stuff.co.nz
The Tall Blacks run at the Atlas Challenge in China has come to an end in the semifinals, beaten 80-65 by a fired up Lithuania team, leaving the New Zealanders to play in the third place playoff on the final day against either China or Iran. After marching through group play unbeaten and showing great hustle on defence and sharing the load offensively, tonight was a flat performance in which the Tall Blacks were always behind. The New Zealanders lost the rebound count (31-35) and shot poo... [read more]
The Tall Blacks run at the Atlas Challenge in China has come to an end in the semifinals, beaten 80-65 by a fired up Lithuania team, leaving the New Zealanders to play in the third place playoff on the final day against either China or Iran. After marching through group play unbeaten and showing great hustle on defence and sharing the load offensively, tonight was a flat performance in which the Tall Blacks were always behind. The New Zealanders lost the rebound count (31-35) and shot poorly from the three (24%) and defensively couldn't find the answers to stop the Lithuanians, in particular Edgaras Zelionis (207-F-89) who ended with a game high 25 (9 of 14). Head Coach Paul Henare was left disappointed in an effort that never really got going. 'I definitely thing that was a reality check in terms of where we have been playing, we came up against a quality well drilled side tonight and didn't respond to the challenge well, I thought our start in particular was poor and while we went into the half only a few points down but I thought there were several areas on the defensive end and offensively where for whatever reason we let their changing defences' disrupt us where we have actually been pretty good through the first few games. It is a lesson and a good opportunity to realize that we are in for a long run and that we have a bigger goal in mind.' After trailing 23-15 at the first break, the Tall Blacks reduced that arrears to 37-32 and briefly drew level late in the third but could not go on from there. Henare was not concerned about how good the opposition were, for him it was his own team's standards that weren't met on the night. 'It is not necessarily that we are better than them or not, more it is about our own standards. It is hard to keep a high level of play for a long period of time, there are bound to be dips in our play, we responded well in the third quarter and kept grinding away and making plays, I think if we had knocked our free throws in that end of the third quarter we would have put a lot more pressure on them, but we couldn't capitalize and they broke away again.' While bitterly disappointed at being knocked out of the tournament and being left with the playoff for third, Henare says the key is the learnings that can be taken in the context of the long game, that of trying to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games. 'I think the immediate goal is how we respond and what we learn for our game tomorrow, we will play China or Iran, I can guarantee the China we beat the other night will not be the team we face tomorrow if it is them, but regardless of who we play this is about us and how we bounce back from today's disappointment.' While a disappointing result, the game was notable for the debut for Derone Raukawa (181-G-94), who played 2 minutes in the final quarter to notch up his first court time for the Tall Blacks. The Tall Blacks will play either China or Iran at 8pm NZT on Sunday in the third place playoff, before immediately travelling the next day to Europe where they will set up camp in Latvia for ten days in their final preparation before the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila starting on July 5.
The Tall Blacks have made it three from three on their overseas tour, crushing hosts China 98-74 overnight. The visitors were in command the whole encounter in a promising all-around display, booking a semifinal spot at the Atlas International Basketball Challenge. Following victories over Belarus and Japan, the romp against the more favoured China was the most commanding of the lot, and will continue to boost the confidence within the camp. Aside from an early 7-5 lead, China barely thre... [read more]
The Tall Blacks have made it three from three on their overseas tour, crushing hosts China 98-74 overnight. The visitors were in command the whole encounter in a promising all-around display, booking a semifinal spot at the Atlas International Basketball Challenge. Following victories over Belarus and Japan, the romp against the more favoured China was the most commanding of the lot, and will continue to boost the confidence within the camp. Aside from an early 7-5 lead, China barely threatened, with the Tall Blacks utilising a vast array of scorers to take a 20 point buffer midway through the second quarter. With Thomas Abercrombie (198-F/G-87, college: Washington St., agency: Priority Sports) compiling four point plays and Tai Jack Webster (193-G-95) getting to the line with regularity, the Tall Blacks opened up a dominating 50-22 halftime lead. China were struggling to create any offensive flow through a barrage of missed shots, going 6/24 from the field and missing six first half free-throws, while nine offensive rebounds re-generated extra possessions for the Tall Blacks. China managed to cling to some respectability in the second half, edging the third and tying the fourth quarter, but never came close to closing the gap as the Tall Blacks added a third international victory to their belt. Rookie centre Michael Karena (208-C-93, college: Wright St.) was the star of the show, scoring 18 points on a perfect 9/9 shooting in a superb second half offensive display. Corey Webster (188-G-88, college: Lambuth) ended with an efficient 16, Tai Jack Webster added 13 and Isaac Fotu (203-F-93, college: Hawaii) contributed 10 to the cause. The Tall Blacks are now set for a day off before the semifinals take place late Saturday night and Sunday morning. Courtesy of: nzherald.co.nz
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