Hunt fully embracing Tall Blacks debut in Cairns
Cairns Taipans development player Jordan Hunt has become quite used to the Cairns Pop-Up Arena over the past five weeks but he will be wearing a different uniform as he represents the New Zealand Tall Blacks on Saturday night.
Hunt is in his first season in the NBL with the Taipans and has fitted in instantly well even hitting the court and scoring his first points in the league against the Illawarra Hawks, but now Saturday night presents a whole new opportunity.
While Hunt has always been seen as an exciting young player in New Zealand, this will be the first time he's ever represented his country when the Tall Blacks take on the Australian Boomers on Saturday night in a FIBA Asia Cup Qualifier at Cairns Pop-Up Arena.
With the Taipans in Melbourne as part of the NBL Cup and taking on the Illawarra Hawks on Saturday as well, Hunt has remained in Cairns to be part of the Tall Blacks with the full blessing of everyone involved at the Snakes.
Getting the chance to represent your country is an opportunity that doesn’t come around every day and in fact for Hunt, this will be the first time he's ever played for New Zealand in his life at any level.
That makes it a dream come true for him and now he can't wait to get out on the familiar home court in Cairns trying to win a game for his country.
"It's obviously a dream come true. I did trial for the Junior Tall Blacks but didn’t make that under-19s team so this will be my first time representing New Zealand. It's pretty crazy," Hunt said.
"I found out a couple of days after they announced the game that they might be going for some DP type of players, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to play with all the protocols and hub timings.
"But the club has been really supportive and pushing me to play so that has been really great from the Taipans just to get that support. Obviously it's an amazing opportunity to put on the black singlet and represent my country."
While this will be Hunt's first time playing for the Tall Blacks, his Taipans teammates Jordan Ngatai and Jarrod Kenny are well versed in playing for Australia and have helped prepare him for the experience.
"Obviously they have been through it a fair bit so I've been picking their brains," he said.
"They just told me to go hard, enjoy the experience and just try and learn as much as you can and do your best to represent the country and wear the black singlet proudly."
Not only is Hunt teammates of Ngatai and Kenny with the Snakes, but he won a NZ NBL championship with the pair with the Otago Nuggets just last year.
He was Grand Final MVP to top it off with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals before signing on with the Taipans to be a development player to receive his first taste of life in the NBL.
He has already learned a lot from the experience and is trying to pass that on now to his younger Tall Blacks teammates who might not have yet been in a professional environment.
"I've learned a lot already from playing at the Taipans. It's mostly about just going hard every single possession and learning everything in and out, and just being committed to the cause," Hunt said.
"I've got through a lot of on-court stuff and I'm trying to impart that onto the younger guys even though I'm still young myself. I'm sharing that knowledge that I've learnt off guys like Nate, Cam and pretty much everyone on the Taipans. Hopefully by me sharing that knowledge it can give us a bit of an edge."
As for Saturday night's game, the result will count towards qualifying for August's FIBA Asia Cup in Indonesia and Hunt sees no reason why the Tall Blacks shouldn’t be aiming to win especially with the presence of the legend himself, five-time NBL champion and 476-game warrior Mika Vukona.
"I have a lot of confidence in this team. Obviously we have the vet in Mika and Kane as well who has been through the Tall Blacks process. They'll be able to help us out leading into the game and helping to show us all the little things that go into being successful," Hunt said.
"I'm looking forward to playing with Mika after growing up watching him play a lot and seeing how he hustles, how he reads the game and just getting that opportunity to play with him is pretty awesome.
"I played against him in NZ NBL last year and that was pretty tough so now being on the same side as him is pretty cool."