New coaches on the job
One week into their roles, Basketball New Zealand’s new junior coaches are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.
For Paul Henare (U17 Men), Mike Fitchett (U16 Boys) and James McGilvary (U16 Girls), that means talent-spotting at the NZ U15 Championships in Wellington.
For Henare, in particular, it’s a welcome opportunity for him to see the fruits of his work over the past 18 months with the Hawke’s Bay junior academy he established with long-time international and NBL team-mate Paora Winitana.
“That’s one of the cool things about being at this tournament,” he says. “I’ve already seen about a third of our academy players representing Hawke’s Bay.
“In the academy, we really emphasise fundamentals, so it’s been good to see those applied in game situations.”
This week, though, Henare and his colleagues take a wider perspective. They’re here to start building their teams for next year’s national junior programme – the U16s at the Australian state championships and the U17s in world championship qualifying.
It’s somewhat unfamiliar territory for the former Tall Blacks and NZ Breakers point guard, who has coached the Bay Hawks to the National Basketball League semifinals twice since hanging up his sneakers early last year.
It was a playing career that included two Olympics, two world championships and an Australian NBL title in his final game. But the national role brings a new challenge.
“It means a lot to me,” says Henare. “Any time you can represent your country, that’s a pretty special achievement.
“It’s a significant honour and something I definitely want to do my best at. I want to put in as much effort as I can and continue the good work that’s been done in the past.”
For Henare, that’s not just about results, although you figure someone with his credentials would not settle for being swept by Australia at any level. Already a Tall Blacks assistant, he’s also trying to prepare his young charges for future international and professional careers, and he has a fair idea what’s required.
“I put a big emphasis on fundamentals and from my experience, that’s an aspect of the game that’s too often overlooked by players and coaches. All the best players in the world at any level have good fundamentals.
“Being able to dribble under pressure, delivering a pass on time under defensive pressure to the right spot, reading defences, coming off a screen and using it effectively – a lot of these things are taken for granted, not just at age-group level, but also at senior level.
“We have a responsibility to make sure these guys – and girls – have the right tools to use when they’re under pressure at top level.”
Henare, who will guide the Southland Sharks in next year’s NBL, admits very few of the players on show this week will make his U17 team next year. They’re still a year or two away, but if he retains the job, some of them will get to know him better in the future.
For him, this is more about getting his feet wet in a new environment, and supporting Fitchett and McGilvary as they begin forming their squads.
Next item on the shopping list – who will assist these coaches in 2013?