New Zealand’s Webster Brothers invited to NBA Summer League

Matt Medley

Matt Medley covers Ohio State basketball for AmicoHoops and various local sports for other outlets around Northeast Ohio.

Follow @MedleyHoops on Twitter.

Two of New Zealand’s best basketball players Corey and Tai Webster landed auditions in the NBA Summer League, as Corey (28) will play for the Dallas Mavericks and Tai (22) will play for the Charlotte Hornets.

The names may not be familiar to most basketball fans in the U.S., but to their home country, the duo is somewhat similar to what Steph and Seth Curry have been like here.

Corey just went 20-0 in the NZBL, winning the championship and league MVP, leading the Wellington Saints to a perfect season.

The 6-foot-1 guard averaged 26 points, four rebounds and five assists in 2017, scoring 27 points in the championship game.

He previously earned a tryout with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2015 and impressed the Mavericks in their free-agent mini-camp in late-June to get another shot at the NBA.

Tai, a 6-foot-4 guard averaged 17.1 points (fifth best in the Big Ten), 5.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists for Nebraska in 2016-17, but did not hear his name called at the NBA Draft.

One day later, the Hornets, for whom Webster worked out in June, came calling and informed him of his Summer League opportunity.

Both players will have professional gigs waiting for them if the Summer League tryouts don’t produce NBA offers, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either of these two land a spot affiliated with an NBA club.

Corey is under contract with the Perth Wildcats of the NBL for the 2017-18 season, who have been fully supportive of his chance to live out his NBA dream.

Tai reportedly will have plenty of European teams knocking on his door if he doesn’t get a gig in the NBA.

Asia Cup Impact

The Webster Brothers have a chance to make history for New Zealand basketball, but their opportunities have presented a new challenge for the Tall Blacks (New Zealand’s Men’s National Team) heading into Asia Cup 2017.

This year’s tournament marks the first time New Zealand and Australia (who formerly played head-to-head in FIBA’s Oceania Championship) will merge into Asia Cup.

Prior to the news of the Webster Brothers’ Summer League auditions, New Zealand appeared to be one of the favorites, if not the team to beat in the August tournament in Lebanon.

The Tall Blacks are unlikely to have the Websters on the roster now and Isaac Fotu, another important piece of New Zealand’s National team is going to spend the summer working out from home and resting in preparation for November’s World Cup qualifiers.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s biggest rival and toughest competition in Asia Cup, Australia will be without their NBA stars, including Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Andrew Bogut, Joe Ingles and Aron Baynes.

The Boomers’ stars led Australia to a fourth place finish in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, giving the U.S. one of its toughest matches of the tournament.

This squad, though it won’t feature Australia’s biggest names, has four players with Olympic experience and a talented roster of EuroLeague players along with up and coming NBL players from the country’s best professional league.

Australia and New Zealand still have the most talented rosters heading to Asia Cup, but it should make for a more level playing field than it would have been otherwise.

The tournament is obviously not the number one priority for the national teams of either country and the fact that both nations are willing to send what some would call their “B” and “C” squads to Lebanon is all the evidence needed to know that neither team is all too worried about their chances.

The tournament will however help some of the next tier of players gain valuable international experience leading up to the World Cup qualifiers.

It will be interesting to see which Kiwis step up in the Webster Brothers’ absence and which Aussies will do the same in a tournament which could come down to the two rivals playing for the Asia Cup Championship.

Meanwhile, teams like China and Iran have reason to believe they have a slightly better shot at toppling one of the island nations.

Regardless, the Webster Brothers figure to be a big part of New Zealand’s national team in the bigger picture for years to come, as Asia Cup is not at the top of the list of marquee tournaments, but perhaps before their next appearances with the Tall Blacks, one or two of them can leave their mark here in the states.

Check out highlights of Corey and Tai below:

About the Author

Matt Medley
Matt Medley covers Ohio State basketball for AmicoHoops and various local sports for other outlets around Northeast Ohio. Follow @MedleyHoops on Twitter.