It’s that time of the year again. At home in Australia just as the NBL is about to tip-off, the Aussie male contingent in Europe is also set to embark on their 2017-18 season.
With a growing number of young Aussies making their way to the northern hemisphere, we take a look at the five Aussies to keep your eye on this season.
#5 | Tom WILSON | Partizan Belgrade (Serbia)
Tom Wilson is following the same trail from US College to Serbia as undertaken so successfully by Jonah Bolden last season.
The 196cm guard departed SMU after receiving little opportunity, and subsequently enjoyed a standout season with the Melbourne Tigers in the SEABL heading into his debut season in Europe. He averaged an eye-catching 20.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game for the Tigers, after managing just 6.1 minutes per game for SMU before leaving the program.
Before heading to college, Wilson made his name at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships, where he posted 12.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. This included a standout performance in the gold medal game against the USA, where Wilson put up 23 points.
Partizan is one of the most respected clubs in Serbia, and just so happens to be the same team that helped launch fellow Australian Aleks Maric’s European career, while another Boomer in Nathan Jawai has also played for the club previously.
Returning to the EuroCup competition in season 2017-18, Partizan provides a similar — and arguably better– platform to launch his professional career than Bolden before him. Look out for Wilson to grasp the opportunities given to him, however we will have to wait and see whether he can have the same impact.
Partizan officially tip-off their season in the Adriatic League against Skopje on 30 September (Australian time) before commencing their EuroCup campaign against ALBA Berlin on 12 October.
#4 | Ben MADGEN | Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania)
Dynamic guard Ben Madgen was arguably the best-performed Aussie in Europe last season, helping lead Lietkabelis Panevezys the Lithuanian Cup and League finals where they ultimately fell to Brock Motum’s Zalgiris Kaunas. He also played an integral role in their EuroCup campaign in which they qualified for the Top 16, just missing out on the playoffs. He led his side in scoring with 13.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2 assists per game while also shooting a red-hot 48.4% from three-point territory.
Madgen’s value has soared, with Lithuanian giants Lietuvos Rytas signing the 193cm guard on a 2 year deal during the off-season.
His new club narrowly missed the EuroCup quarterfinals last season but finished in second place in the Lithuanian League regular season standings, just ahead of his former club. With Madgen a key addition for the 2017-18 season, they will be looking to challenge Zalgiris for the Lithuanian Cup and Leagues titles while making a deeper run in the EuroCup. For them to succeed, Madgen will have to be at his best, and judging from his previous success, that is more likely than not.
Their season got off to the right start with two straight wins.
Lietuvos Rytas earned a solid 102-90 season-opening win against Pieno Zvaigzdes in the Lithuanian national league. Madgen came off the bench for 10 points in 18 minutes, shooting an efficient 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. Elevated into the starting lineup in their next game, he would pour in 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting with 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 28 minutes to start of the season in fine form.
Their EuroCup season commences on 12 October (Australian time) against Spanish side Bilbao.
#3 | Ryan BROEKHOFF | Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (Russia)
After enjoying his first break in-between seasons for the first time since his freshman year at Valparaiso (NCAA), Broekhoff his primed for a big third season with Russian outfit Lokomotiv Kuban.
The 6’7 sharpshooter has played his role to near perfection in Russia for the past two years across the VTB United League, EuroLeague and EuroCup competitions. Last season he averaged 5.9 points in the EuroCup while adding 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 44% from downtown in the VTB United League, demonstrating a canny ability to make ridiculously big shots along the way.
Following an off-season strength and recovery program in his time away from the Boomers, he returns for another chance to help his side back to the EuroCup finals, but also in impressing NBA scouts who continue to circle.
‘Big Shot’ Broekhoff has proven he can deliver on the big stage. While he is the consummate team-mate, if he can consistently deliver then he could be back in the US in 12 months time.
Lokomotiv’s VTB United League season commences on 9 October (Australian time) against Kalev/Cramo, with their EuroCup season getting underway against French side Limoges 4 days later.
#2 | Brock MOTUM | Anadolou Efes Istanbul (Turkey)
Along with Madgen, Motum was outstanding last season in Lithuania. As the highest paid foreigner in Lithuania, Motum played a key role in helping Zalgiris win their last two consecutive League titles, and deliver two strong EuroLeague campaigns.
The 6’10 forward delivered 9.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game while shooting a super-efficient 58.8% from the field, and an amazing 49.8% from beyond the arc, during their league campaign. In EuroLeague competition, he was good for 10.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while shooting 57.9% from inside the arc, and 46.2% beyond it.
During the off-season Motum signed with Turkish side Anadolou Efes, a team who narrowly missed out on the EuroLeague Final Four last season. Motum is one of the key additions they are looking to make for next season as they aim to secure both the Turkish national league and EuroLeague championships. His scoring prowess will be integral to his new sides’ chances.
Anadolou’s Turkish Basketball League season tips-off on 9 October (Australian time) against Pinar Karsiy, while they get things going in EuroLeague on 13 October against Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid.
#1 | Jonah BOLDEN | Maccabi Tel-Aviv (Israel)
There is no doubting the hype surrounding Jonah Bolden’s season ahead after the 6’10 power forward was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Bolden made a tremendous case for his NBA readiness in the recent NBA Summer League, and gave the Sixers reason to reconsider their decision, but was likely still stashed due to current roster considerations.
His pathway to the NBA took an alternative route; instead of following through with college at UCLA, he chose to leave early, and start his professional career in Europe with Serbia’s FMP Belgrade. Calling the move the best decision he had ever made for his career, Bolden was named the Adriatic League’s top prospect, along with impressive season averages of 12.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game.
Bolden’s debut professional season experienced an unusual ending after helping FMP Belgrade qualify for the Serbian SuperLeague Grand Final. He played a starring role in upsetting cross-town rivals Partizan Belgrade in the semifinals, only to be signed by their grand final opponent, EuroLeague side Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade), on the eve of playing off against each other for the 2017 championship.
Soon after being drafted and starring in Summer League, Maccabi Tel-Aviv poached the Aussie and signed him to a 3-year contract with an NBA out clause. They intend for Bolden to play an anchoring role this coming season as the New South Wales product looks to reaffirm his NBA credentials. Maccabi last won the EuroLeague crown in 2014, a side boasting fellow Australian Joe Ingles, who soon after launched his NBA career with the Utah Jazz.
Their first game of the Israeli Winner League season is against Hapoel Eilat on 9 October, while their EuroLeague quest gets underway on 13 October against German side Brose Basket Bamburg.