2014 Sino-Australia Challenge: Introducing the Boomers

With professional basketball leagues around the world having either wrapped up their seasons in recent weeks, or are deep into the heart of their playoff series, basketball fans attention around the world begin to turn towards the World Cup which will be held in Spain this coming August.

Here in Australia this week, our men’s national team the Boomers begin their international season preparations with a four game tournament against the Chinese National Team in the Sino-Australia Challenge. The Sino-Australia Challenge is into its second year of competition, following a four-year agreement reached between Basketball Australia and the Chinese Basketball Association.

A handful of national team veterans, including Australia’s NBA stars Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Aron Baynes and Matthew Dellavedova were not among the group of 14 in the training camp which commenced last Friday. They are all but assured a spot in the World Cup selection camp which will take place in July. According to Boomers head coach Andrej Lemanis, there are 16 spots available for the World Cup selection camp.

Lemanis spoke to the media at the end of yesterday’s practice session and said that he expects six to eight of those positions to be claimed by members of the Boomers roster during the Sino-Australia Challenge;

“We spoke to this group when they first arrived in Perth and spoke about the fact there are people in this room who will go to the World Cup. And as a result there’s going to be some great news stories to come out if it. Perhaps three months ago these guys weren’t considered a chance to go to the World Cup, but they could be on the team. If you go through the reality of it, there are probably six or seven guys who pick themselves, but after that it’s pretty wide open, so it’s a good opportunity for these guys in this environment to show what they have to offer to the Boomers campaign.”

Todd Blanchfield (Townsville, NBL) and Anthony Drmic (Boise State University, USA) were the two unlucky players cut from the squad of 14. We take a good look at the final team of 12 players selected for the Boomers ahead of the 4 game series commencing in Perth on 29 May 2014.

Australian Boomers

Angus BRANDT | Oregon State University (USA)

Centre | 208cm

A hulking 6 foot 10 inch near 250 pound center with shooting range that extends to beyond the arc, Brandt adds an extra dimension to the Boomers ever growing list of talented big men. Brandt has just completed his fifth and final year of college after being granted a medical red shirt after missing the 2012-13 season due to a serious knee injury. In what can only be considered a very successful comeback, Brandt returned to the Beavers starting line-up, becoming the team’s second leading scorer at 12.6 points per game.

Brandt was interviewed by The Pick and Roll’s Aussie Hoops editor Damian Arsenis back in October. You can check out the full interview here.

For those of you with more time your hands, definitely try to watch Episode 2 of ‘Rise and Grind’ a behind the scenes look at the Oregon State men’s basketball program, which featured an inside look at Angus’ recovery from last season’s knee injury. A preview of the episode can be seen below, whilst the full episode can be viewed on the Pac-12 website.

Cameron GLIDDON | Cairns Taipans (NBL)

Guard | 196cm

The 2012-13 season NBL Rookie of the Year, Gliddon’s professional career went from strength to strength over the last 12 months as he claimed the Taipans MVP award for the 2013-14 NBL season. The 24-year-old started every game he played over his first two seasons as a professional, increasing his scoring output from 7.1 to 12.1 points per game while improving his shooting percentages to an impressive 50.5% from the field and 36.9% from the three-point line. Purely a shooting guard coming out of college, Gliddon has slowly blossomed into more of a combo guard, capable of handling the ball and creating plays for his teammates under strong defensive pressure.

Gliddon participated in the previous years Sino-Australia challenge with the Boomers, earning a starting five berth for the tournament. Showing that his skills could easily transfer to the international stage, he scored in double figures in three of the four games.

Hugh GREENWOOD | University of New Mexico (USA)

Guard | 190cm

At only 22 years old, Greenwood is rightly considered one of the veterans of this squad, having been in many senior Australian squads over the years following his debut at just 17 years of age.

A highly decorated junior from Tasmania, Greenwood moved to the AIS as 15-year-old; one of the youngest players to ever be awarded a scholarship. Prior to following in Luc Longley’s prodigious footsteps as a New Mexico Lobo, Greenwood capped his junior career by being named captain of the Australian Under-19 Emus team that competed at the World Championships in Latvia in 2011. Greenwood dominated the competition, being named to the all-tournament team alongside current NBA guard Jeremy Lamb, averaging 17.1 points per game across eight matches (including a 26 point explosion against the USA) while also compiling 4.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists.  He shot the ball at 43.9% from the field, including 37.7% from the three-point line.

In his college career to date, the junior guard has been a steadying influence in his three seasons as the team’s starting point guard. Playing alongside fellow Australian Cameron Bairstow, Greenwood’s leadership, play-making and defensive capabilities have been lauded by his coaches. His ability to run the team was demonstrated by him finishing sixth in the NCAA in assist to turnover ratio with 105 assists and 30 turnovers, the 30 turnovers being the third-fewest among point guards that played at least 700 minutes during the season.

Greenwood was also interviewed by The Pick and Roll’s Aussie Hoops editor Damian Arsenis back in October. You can check out the full interview here.

Tom JERVIS | Perth Wildcats (NBL)

Center | 211cm

About a year ago Tom Jervis was getting ready to begin his new career selling radiators to mine sites. Today he is the 2013-14 NBL Rookie of the Year, an NBL champions, a highly coveted free-agent by several NBL teams, and the most recent addition to the Sino-Australia challenge squad following the withdrawal of his Perth Wildcats team-mate Matthew Knight. How things can change so quickly.

Standing at near seven feet tall and despite being 27-year-old, Jervis was an NBL rookie and is in fact one of the oldest players in this squad. Having played college basketball at Troy University in Alabama, the local Western Australian product had to ply his trade in the local State Basketball League (SBL) competition for a few years before finally earning his change at NBL level with his home-town Wildcats. Jervis grabbed the opportunity with both hands and averaged a handy 5 points and 5 rebounds in 17 minutes per game as Perth’s back-up center. He even managed to play extended minutes as a starter early in the season while Matthew Knight recovered from injury, showing a natural flair as a rim protector.

Boomers head coach Andrej Lemanis heaped praise on Jervis following his addition to the squad, talking up his chances of making the squad for the World Cup on basketball.net.au.

“I am genuinely excited with Tom’s inclusion into the squad. He had a tremendous rookie season in the NBL reflected in his Rookie of the Year award. Last time he was in camp I got a feel for his work ethic and personality – both of which are assets in our environment – I look forward to seeing his improved skills make an impact and push his cause for selection into the World Cup squad.”

Ben MADGEN | Sydney Kings (NBL)

Guard | 194cm

Another former NBL Rookie of the Year, Madgen was also a late addition to this squad following the withdrawals of Damian Martin and Chris Goulding. Many experts, including Boomers legend and former Kings coach Shane Heal were shocked at his initial exclusion. Prior to last year’s Sino-Australia challenge, Madgen was penned as a possible member of the 2014 World Cup team given his meteoric rise through the NBL ranks and the Boomers need for a back-up shooting guard. Madgen was on track to play a major role in the four game series against China, but unfortunately suffered a horrendous ankle injury at training between games one and two, ruling him out for the remainder of the series.

A well-respected member of the NBL community, Ben signed with the Sydney Kings as their 11th man in 2011, following a glittering four-year college career at Augusta State University where he was the all-time leading scorer in school history and had his number retired. Despite some initial struggles adapting to professional basketball, Ben went on to play in 23 games his rookie season and ran away with the rookie of the year award after a strong finish. Madgen’s role with the Kings has continued to grow over the past few seasons; he is now co-captain of the team and was an All-Star in 2013. At the conclusion of the 2012–13 NBL season, Madgen was awarded the NBL’s most improved player as well as being selected to his first All-NBL First Team.

Rhys MARTIN | Wollongong Hawks (NBL)

Guard | 184cm

Along with our big men, another position running deep with talent for the Boomers at present is point guard. Consider the calibre of players that have not been included in this squad; Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Damian Martin, Adam Gibson, Dante Exum and last year’s emerging Boomers Jason Cadee, Igor Hadziomerovic and Mitchell Norton. It is clear to see that Andrej Lemanis has no shortage of options to run his Boomers offence.

This year Wollongong Hawks veteran Rhys Martin is presented with a chance to press his claims to wear the green and gold. Playing under the watchful eye of Hawks head coach Gordie McLeod, himself a former Boomers point guard, Martin has blossomed into an outstanding floor leader for the often undermanned Hawks. Despite having talented imports Gary Ervin and Rotnei Clarke suit up for Wollongong in recent seasons, it is clear that the Hawks are always a much better team when Martin is on the floor.

Martin impressed for the Hawks in the 2013-14 NBL season, helping his team to a fourth place finish and a postseason berth. In February, he recorded a career high 32 points, along with 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in a 91-89 victory over the Adelaide 36ers, arguably his finest NBL performance to date.

Talking to the Illawarra Mercury following his selection in the squad, Martin said;

“It’s always a great honour to play for Australia and to be included in camps like these. Whether I make the team or not depends on what they’re looking for. You never really know if they want to bring in young kids for the future and give them opportunities, or if they want to go with the guys who’ve gelled together the best. You can only go in and do your stuff and hope for the best. It’s a hard thing to come back from an ACL injury after eight months and start playing again. I was happy with the way my knee held up and I didn’t have any other injuries throughout the year, so it was a good season. I started shooting the ball pretty well towards the end, so I was pretty happy with that. I’ve had a bit of a break, but I got a call a few weeks ago from Andrej and I started shooting and getting back into it earlier than I normally would at this time of year.”

Jack McVEIGH | Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (SEABL)

Forward | 200cm

McVeigh is the youngest member of the squad and a current scholarship athlete at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (CoE). He joins the squad as a replacement for Ryan Broekhoff who has been forced to withdraw from the camp for personal reasons. Despite his age, McVeigh has shown of late that he is more than capable of mixing it with bigger, older players. His CoE team participate in the SEABL competition, and McVeigh has been dominant in recent times. Most notably he scored 20 or more points in all three games of a Melbourne triple-header road trip. He posted 20 points against Bendigo on Friday night, 21 points on Saturday night against Sandringham, and then 23 points on the Sunday afternoon against highly fancied Nunawading.

A highly decorated junior, McVeigh has already had the honour of wearing the green and gold at various junior tournaments, including the Australian Youth Olympic Festival. In 2013 he arrived at the Under 18 Australian Junior Championship as the highest rated prospect and didn’t disappoint, leading the competition in scoring at nearly 25 points per game and finishing second overall in rebounding at just under 11 per game. Later in the same year Jack teamed up with NBA bound guard Dante Exum to lead Lake Ginninderra to the Australian Schools Championships, dropping 26 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists in the final.

Brock MOTUM | Bologna (Italy)

Forward | 208cm

A highly touted senior national team prospect for a number of years, power forward Motum is high scoring offensive threat, very much in the ‘stretch four’ mold preferred by a lot of coaches these days. Motum has just completed his first season as a professional player with Italian powerhouse Virtus Bologna.

Coming off an outstanding four-year college career at Washington State where he led the Pac-12 in scoring his junior and senior years at roughly 18 points per game, Motum entered the unknown and uncertain world of trying to secure a position in the NBA draft in 2013. He conducted several workouts for different teams, but like fellow Aussie Matthew Dellavedova he went undrafted. Unlike ‘Delly’ who went on to secure a place with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Motum didn’t receive a lot of opportunity to play with his summer league team the Philadelphia 76ers and was unable to secure a long-term contract.

Quickly turning his focus to Europe, Motum was snapped up by Virtus Bologna who play in Lega Serie A, the top league in Italy. Motum’s deal includes a NBA escape clause after the first season so he could make a run at the NBA again as soon as the 2014-15 season.  Until then, he’ll continue to improve his game, mindful of the path taken by another Australian graduate of Washington State Aron Baynes who played for several European teams over a four-year stretch before joining the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA.

Luke NEVILL | Taiwan Mobile (Taiwan)

Center | 218cm

One of the few squad members making a repeat appearance at the Sino-Australia challenge, Nevill finds himself as one of the elder statesman of the squad at 28 years of age.

Since going undrafted in the 2009 NBA Draft, Nevill has bounced around for a few different teams and is yet to find a permanent home. In between stints in both the NBA D-League and Summer League, Nevill has logged time with three different NBL clubs; Melbourne, Perth and Townsville. He also spent some time in Europe with BC Triumph Lyubertsy of Russia and then in 2012 he experienced one of the shortest NBA stints by an Australian player, spending just over a month with the Indiana Pacers as part of their pre-season training camp. Nevill’s most recent season was spent with the Taiwan Mobile Clouded Leopards in Taiwan’s Super Basketball League where he averaged 20 points and almost 12 rebounds per game.

Speaking recently to Perth’s The Sunday Times, Nevill had this to say;

“Typically, the Chinese squad is a lot taller than ours. But they only have few guys who are senior players who can use their height to full effect. Some of the other younger guys are tall, but they’re still improving. If I have a couple of them matched up on me, I’ll try to use some crafty moves and my experience to my advantage.”

Clint STEINDL | Cairns Taipans (NBL)

Guard | 200cm

Most Aussie basketball fans will be familiar with Clint Steindl due to the time he spent playing alongside Matthew Dellavedova at St Mary’s College. With the Gaels, Steindl participated in post-season action in all four of his seasons on campus, twice making the NCAA tournament and the other two seasons the National Invitational Tournament. He finished his career ranked in several career statistical categories, most notably for his long distance shooting in which he is ranked sixth in school history for three-point field goals made with 185 and seventh in three-point field goal percentage at 40%.

Steindl gained a lot of experience in the green and gold a year ago and is the only player in this squad that participated for both the senior Boomers in the Sino-Australia challenge and the emerging Boomers at the Stankovic Cup and the World University Games in 2013.

Since returning home from his college experience, Steindl has continued staking his reputation as a dangerous outside shooter with the Cairns Taipans. Despite not being known for his athletic prowess, he has made the occasional spectacular play as shown in the clip below;

Lucas WALKER | Melbourne United (NBL) (formerly known as Melbourne Tigers)

Forward | 202cm

Another Australian to come out of the Saint Mary’s Colege pipeline, Walker is arguably the biggest surprise inclusion to this squad. His numbers with the Melbourne Tigers last season don’t jump off the page at first glance – 8.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. However Andrej Lemanis is known to prefer having a mobile power forward type player at his disposal as he had with Mika Vukona at the New Zealand Breakers and Anthony Petrie last year with the Boomers. Walker may be able to fill this role against China. Standing at nearly 6’8” and strong as an ox, he is able to provide a defensive presence as shown below;

Mark WORTHINGTON | Melbourne United (NBL) (formerly known as Melbourne Tigers)

Forward | 203cm

The last player on this list really needs no introduction. As a dual Olympian, Worthington is easily the most accomplished international player in this team. A long-time member of the Boomers, Worthington returns to lead the national team after missing last year’s international calendar due to injury.

All we really need to do when it comes to Worthington is sit back and watch some highlights of his impressive career to date.

Basketball Australia today released details of the ‘new generation’ Chinese squad that will take on the Boomers. You can see the full details of the Chinese team by visiting the official Basketball Australia website.

Basketball fans will be able to see all four games of the 2014 Sino-Australia Challenge between the Australian Boomers and Team China telecast on ABC2. The series tips off on Thursday, 29 May 2014 at Challenge Stadium in Perth, with game 1 on ABC2 at 10:30pm nationally.

Travis Reid

Written by

I'm a passionate supporter of Australian basketball, especially our national team the Aussie Boomers. A (very) undersized power forward, my hoops 'claim to fame' is some time spent working in the Melbourne Tigers' front office towards the end of the Gaze and Copeland era. I've previously contributed articles to Gaze Hoops and The Roar. My greatest achievement in life has been becoming the very proud father of two beautiful children, a future Opal and a future Boomer (hey...a Dad can dream right?)

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