The Australian Gems earned their place at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Championships after steamrolling their way through the 2016 FIBA Oceania U18 Championships with an average winning margin of 106.4 points. They have since secured what can only be considered as a dream draw, as they look to build upon the U17 World Championship gold medal won by the Sapphires last year.
At the official Draw Ceremony held in Udine, Italy, Australia was drawn with world number 11 Japan, 14th ranked Hungary, and a yet to be determined FIBA Americas participant. That fourth country of the 16-team competition is set to be announced by FIBA at a later stage as a result of the current suspension of Brazil’s Basketball Federation. The Gem’s world ranking of 7 is based on past performances at that level and does not factor in the U17 World Championship win by the Sapphires in 2016. They will open their tournament against Japan, followed by a game against the yet to be named FIBA Americas team, concluding Group D with a contest against Hungary, and should be considered heavy favourites to progress unbeaten. Australia will also avoid USA and host nation Italy until after the Round of 16.
Held from July 22-30 in Udine and Cividale del Friuli, Italy, the Gems will be looking to replicate the magic of the Sapphires who stormed their way to gold at the FIBA U17 event in 2016. The 2017 Gems may well boast a number of World Champions from that successful side too, with eight players from that gold medal winning squad helping the team qualify – Jazmin Shelley, Abby Cubillo, Monique Conti, Jasmine Simmons, Sam Simons, Kiera Rowe, Ezi Magbegor and Lara McSpadden. Conti, Shelley and Magbegor were all named to the All-Star Five in the qualifying event in Fiji, and all three are likely to feature for the Gems in Italy as well.
With a tantalising blend of talent, size and experience on the world stage, Australia will enter the event as one of the teams to beat.