The final squad of 12 has been named for Australia’s FIBA Asia World Cup qualifiers against the Philippines and Chinese Taipei later this month in Melbourne, with just two changes made to the side that defeated Japan and Chinese Taipei.
Selected to the shortlisted squad of 20 after making a successful return from injury with the Sydney Kings, 2016 Rio Olympian Kevin Lisch, along with Perth Wildcats star Jesse Wagstaff, have been included in the Boomers side. Making way for the two additions are two other veterans in Damian Martin and Brad Newley.
“Continuity is important in the team, especially with the limited preparation time in the FIBA windows,” said Boomers head coach, Andrej Lemanis in the official release.
“We have discussed and debated the make-up of the final team as a staff over the past month and are pleased with the versatility in playing style that this particular team allows. We are fortunate to have such a depth of talent in the NBL from which to select.
Lisch’s return is one that would have been expected, having been an important member of the Australian team that narrowly missed out on what would have been a historic first medal in Rio. His inclusion could be considered a straight swap for Martin, and potentially offers increased scoring output from the defensively oriented Martin.
Newley makes way for Wagstaff who has been a solid contributor for the Wildcats in the NBL this season, averaging over 10 points per game. Arguably, he offers greater flexibility, especially against the versatile Philippines outfit, who will be looking for their first big scalp of the Asian qualifiers.
“The unique challenges that the Philippines present have definitely been part of the discussion and selection process. Basketball is the number one sport in the Philippines, they produce highly skilled players and play well together as a team.
“Our assistant coaches have spent a lot of time gaining an understanding of how they play and the specific talents of their playing group. We feel that we have selected a team that will enable us to negate some of their individual and team strengths as well as hopefully causing a few challenging match-ups for them.”
As has been the cornerstone of Lemanis coached teams, he is likely to rotate the squad heavily to try and maintain the tempo and pressure on their Asian opponents. The team that is made up entirely of NBL players once again is likely
“Our depth, being able to genuinely play 12-deep, is a distinct advantage,” said Lemanis. “During the first window, we were able to sustain a level for the course of the game which ultimately allowed us to pull away from a very good Japanese team.”
While Australia opened with convincing wins against Japan and Chinese Taipei, the Philippines enters the game without having lost a game to date. A victory for either side in the game played on February 22 at Margaret Court Arena will likely finish top in the group. Playing in front of a vocal Melbourne home crowd is something that both Lemanis and the rest of the team are looking forward to, as the return leg in the Philippines is likely to result in a hostile environment.
“The travel time during the first window certainly added to the challenge so minimising that aspect will help us come into the games at peak physical condition. We’re fortunate that back-to-back home games will mean the players involved in the NBL playoffs will not be burdened with additional travel.”
Australia is currently ranked 10th in the world, whilst the Philippines and Chinese Taipei sit 31st and 57th respectively. In order to qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Australia must finish in the top 7 teams in the Asian region at the conclusion of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers.
February 22: Australia vs Philippines
7:30pm AEDT | Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne
February 25: Australia vs Chinese Taipei
3:00pm AEDT | Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne
Tickets for both games can be purchased via Ticketek Australia here.