New Zealand captain Kirk Penney has been ruled out of the upcoming Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela with a torn calf muscle.
Penney, 31 who plays in the Liga Endesa for Fuenlabrada missed the last couple of league fixtures due to injury. The shooting-guard thought he would be okay in time for the Qualifiers which start on July 2nd but he found out that the calf tear was too severe and he now misses the trip to Caracas.
“The decision ultimately comes down to my body, Penney said via the New Zealand Basketball Federation website.”I tore my calf and then tore it again trying to come back too early.
“This forced me to miss the last five games of my season in Spain.
“I’m rehabbing my injury, but won’t be ready for the Tall Blacks campaign this year.”
This is a huge blow for the New Zealand Tall Blacks as they stood a good chance of qualification to the quarter-finals of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. They are housed in Group D alongside FYR of Macedonia and Angola.
The Tall Blacks must win a game to advance to the quarter-finals and then prevail again to reach the semi-finals where a victory in the semi would seal New Zealand’s spot for the Games.
A loss would leave them needing to beat the loser of the other semi in the last game of the OQT to claim the final qualifying spot.
“When you lose your best scorer from the the last several years, the impact on the team has to be big,” New Zealand head coach Nenad Vucinic said.
“We’ll have to show strength and absorb this blow by everybody raising their level of performance.
“It could be a chance for others to step up, but it’ll also be a challenge for our coaching staff to adjust to the different look of our team.”