NZ expects top gun Corey Webster to recover in time against Gilas

New Zealand coach Paul Henare expects shooting guard Corey Webster to be up and running by the time the Tall Blacks clash with Gilas Pilipinas next Wednesday in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The 6-foot-2 Webster strained his calf in the first half of the team’s 84-55 defeat at the hands of Latvia a few days ago in Riga.

Henare said Webster’s recovery seemed faster than they initially thought and expects him to provide the offense for the Tall Blacks against host Philippines.

“Corey is looking really well, probably faster than we thought of,” Henare told reporters on Saturday after holding the Tall Blacks’ first practice since arriving in Manila last night following a tiring 28-hour flight from Latvia.

“We have 4 days, so promising signs here for Corey. We got 4 days before we play now.”

Webster, who appeared in 3 preseason games for the New Hornets Pelicans last year, heat up in New Zealand’s 75-72 loss to Iran last Monday that saw him finish with 29 points.

But the Tall Blacks mentor said they are not going to be centering their offense on just a few players.

“We have a team-first mentality. I mean we have some individual talent, but I think our biggest strength is the way we share the ball and play together,” he stressed.

Other reliable gunners for Henare’s New Zealand squad that is bidding to return to the Olympics for the first time since the 2004 edition in Athens include bruising forward Isaac Fotu, Tom Abercrombie, Corey’s brother Tai and veteran big man Mika Vukona. – By Richard Dy

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