Australia has announced two of their strongest teams ever to take part in the 2015 World University Games that run from July 3 to 14 in Gwangju, South Korea.
After earning a silver medal in 2013, the men are aiming to go one better this time around with a host of NCAA collegiate stars set to play alongside four players with professional experience gained in the NBL. For the women who won bronze two years ago, they are set to field a side stacked with current Opals and WNBL stars complemented by three current US collegiate players. Both teams run 12 deep and expectations will be high for another run to the medal rounds and a chance to play off the an elusive gold.
Head coach Andrej Lemanis has managed to secure some of the best talent available to take to South Korea, headlined by two players who have worked out for NBA teams ahead of the 2015 NBA Draft. His team is versatile, balanced and talented – and more importantly capable of earning a medal, possibly even gold.
Reigning NCAA Division II Player of the Year Mitch McCarron (Metropolitan State Denver) joins All-Mountain West Third Team selection Hugh Greenwood (New Mexico / Perth Wildcats) in the team after both players graduated from college this year. Both players will link with fellow collegiate stars including America East Tournament Most Outstanding Player Peter Hooley (Albany) and All-Patriot League First Team member Dan Trist (Lafayette).
Joining a bevvy of talented US-based college players are current NBL players Mitch Creek (Adelaide), Shaun Bruce (Cairns), Corey Maynard (Cairns) and Mirko Djeric (Townsville). All four players will provide professional playing experience senior level and are expected to complement the US-college based talent.
“It’s a sign of the future of Australian basketball that we have a mix of talent from different backgrounds,” he said.
“We have two Sudanese players and some whose fathers previously came over as American imports which has given us the ability to play a style of basketball that we have not been able to explore before.”
Louisville big man Mangok Mathiang, Keanu Pinder (Hutchinson Community College, US) join Trist and Creek to help form a potent and versatile front court, with Nick Duncan (Boise State) helping stretch defenses with his ability to knock down the three-ball. Mathiang, Deng and Creek provide a high level of athleticism and rim protection, with Trist and Creek able to score from the post. Lemanis has many options at his disposal, and he could well start Mathiang with Creek and Duncan over Trist for his perimeter shooting, with Creek taking the three-spot.
Lemanis may find himself with a headache as to whom to start in the back court, with the NBL players likely to be forced to the bench by the likes of Greenwood, McCarron and Hooley. As with front court, Lemanis could choose a number of different options to run with. I think it would be hard to go past a combination of Greenwood and McCarron, although Shaun Bruce would be a sound option in place of Greenwood at the point.
The team is set to continue their preparations with a tour of China and a much-needed opportunity for the team to play together and gel as a team. Drawn in Pool C, Australia is set to commence their World University games campaign against Chinese Taipei on 4 July followed by an outing against European powerhouse France. Lithuania are also likely to pose a challenge, while Finland and Japan round out the group.
Men: Shaun Bruce (Central Queensland University), Mitchell Creek (University of South Australia), Deng Deng (Baylor University), Mirko Djeric (Australasian College of Natural Therapies), Nicholas Duncan (Boise State University), Hugh Greenwood (University of New Mexico), Peter Hooley (University of Albany), Mangok Mathiang (University of Louisville), Corey Maynard (Australasian College of Natural Therapies), Mitchell McCarron (Metropolitan State University of Denver), Keanu Pinder (Hutchinson Community College), Daniel Trist (Lafayettte College).
With five of the 12 players having just recently returned from touring Europe with the Opals, Joyce has quite possibly assembled the best female Australian side yet in an attempt to bring home a medal – one that he hopes will be gold.
Rising Opals stars Sara Blicavs (Dandenong), Tessa Lavey (Perth), Stephanie Talbot (Canberra) and Melbourne duo Madeleine Garrick and Alice Kunek come into the side loaded with talent. They join an additional five WNBL representatives to form an experienced and highly talented squad, including Dandenong’s Alex Bunton, Aimee Clydesdale and Lauren Scherf, Carley Mijovic (Adelaide) and Olivia Thompson (Melbourne).
With the array of WNBL talent available, Joyce only had room for three US college-based players. He rounded out his team with Vanessa Panousis (Virginia Tech) and Stephanie Collins (Southern Methodist) who will get a chance to test their talents against their WNBL counterparts.
“We’re aiming to be competitive and also provide a development opportunity for the players which will assist them in becoming Opals of the future. [But] our goal is to also win a medal,” stated Joyce.
It would be hard to go past a starting lineup of Bunton, Thompson and Talbot with a back court of Lavey and Kunek, although Joyce is sure to mix it up and try to build on the high-tempo style of play he has been instilling in the Opals.
Australia has been grouped in Pool D and will take on Uganda, Brazil and Taipei during the group stage, of which, Brazil would be the only ones expected to provide any significant resistance. The Australian women commence their campaign on 5 July against Uganda.
Women: Sara Blicavs (APM College), Alex Bunton (Canberra Institute of Technology), Stephanie Collins (Southern Methodist University), Aimee Clydesdale (Monash University), Madeleine Garrick (Deakin University), Alice Kunek (Deakin University), Tessa Lavey (Swinburne University), Carley Mijovic (Australian College of Natural Therapies), Vanessa Panousis (Virginia Tech), Lauren Scherf (Victoria University), Stephanie Talbot (University of Canberra), Olivia Thompson (University of South Australia).