AUCKLAND (FIBA) - Leading voices in New Zealand and Brazilian basketball have joined the chorus of praise of a new competition format and calendar announced by FIBA in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend.
Many of the changes are related to the FIBA Basketball World Cup, which is to increase from 24 to 32 teams starting in 2019.
The qualification period for FIBA's flagship event will be held over the course of 18 months and consist of six windows - November (2017); February, June, September, November (2018); and February (2019).
Under the new format, fans from some 140 countries will be able to enjoy regular national team games throughout the year during the qualification period to the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
These games will be part of an estimated 1,200 international top level contests to be played over a four-year cycle.
Among the big winners are the fans in New Zealand.
At the Central Board meeting, FIBA announced that Asia and Oceania will play in a combined Asia-Pacific region to qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, although universality will remain in place for the qualifying process to the Olympic Games.
"Opportunities to see the Tall Blacks play in New Zealand have been few and far between over recent years, and this new format will allow fans to see their team play more often," said Basketball New Zealand chief executive Iain Potter.
"It also sees New Zealand become an active participant in FIBA's biggest zone, providing increased opportunities for international play across all our national teams."
Tall Blacks forward Mika Vukona said that while it means qualifying will be harder, it's what the team needs.
"It's going to be interesting. Once again, the pool is going to have a lot more countries involved," he said.
"But at the same time, we've played against some of those countries, and if you want to be in the best tournament you've got to beat the best so, why not?"
The president of the Brazilian Basketball Confederation, Carlos Nunes, also sounded a note of optimism.
"The format pleases us greatly and with joy we see these substantial and relevant changes made by the governing body," Nunes said.