NCAA Men: All-Time Australian College Team

With Australian men making a sustained impact NCAA Division I college basketball, The Pick and Roll has decided to choose an all-time Australian college team. After having looked back through history, a squad of 12 has been chosen with nothing but their college careers taken into account.

The graduating class of 2013 was exceptional, with three Australian Boomers making the squad from that year. The side features three Gaels, two Utes and two Lobos, all making the final cut.

Before we get started, please note;

  • Only players who played in Division 1 were considered, and;
  • Naturalised Australians can only be taken into consideration if they were an Australian citizen at the time of their college career

Starters

G | Eddie PALUBINSKAS | Ricks Junior College / LSU

Eddie Palubinskas was the original trailblazer for Australians playing in US college. Debuting for Ricks Junior College (now known as BYU-Idaho) in 1970, Palubinskas led college basketball in free throw percentage with 92.4%. His shooting prowess in college helped lay the foundations of his future career as a highly successful shooting coach, where he worked with players such as Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard.

Palubinskas was named an All-American in his sophomore year. He averaged 24 points per game over his two seasons at Ricks Junior College. After missing out on the Olympic scoring title by just one point at the 1972 Olympic Games, Palubinskas transferred to LSU for the 1972-73 season. With LSU, Palubinskas earned All-SEC honours in his junior and senior years while averaging 18.5 points. He holds the LSU record for most consecutive free-throws, most consecutive free-throws in a single game and the best free-throw percentage in school history.

The fact that Pakubinskas flourished in an era without the three-point line as a sharpshooter, only helps strengthen his college resume.

G | Matthew DELLAVEDOVA | Saint Mary’s

With all respect to Andrew Gaze’s dream run in his one year at Seton Hall, two point guards have been named in the starting line-up. Both Dellavedova and Palubinskas’ careers were too decorated to overlook in favour of a two guard.

Dellavedova enjoyed a remarkable career at Saint Mary’s. ‘Delly’ was installed as the starting point guard in his freshman season after Patty Mills was taken in the NBA draft during the summer. The Victorian finished his career as the all-time leading points scorer with the Gaels, overtaking fellow Aussie Daniel Kickert. Delly also holds the school records for most assists, games played, free-throw percentage and three point field goals.

Helping Saint Mary’s to three NCAA tournament appearances, including a run to the sweet sixteen in 2010, in his senior year, Dellavedova was also named as an Academic All-American. Delly later had his #4 jersey retired in 2014.

F | Ryan BROEKHOFF | Valparaiso

Ryan Broekhoff attended Valparaiso University in Indiana. After coming off the bench during his freshman campaign, Broekhoff broke into the starting line-up in his sophomore year. During this season he led the Horizon League in three-point percentage at 44.8%

In his junior season, the 6’7 forward became one of the top players in his conference. Broekhoff was named as an honourable mention All-American by the Associated Press. In his senior year, Broekhoff delivered career-high averages of 15.7 points, 7.3 boards and 2.3 assists per game. In the Horizon League tournament semi-finals, Broekhoff hit a miraculous game-winning shot to send Valparaiso to the title game. Valpo would go on to win the conference tournament and clinch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament, leaving Broekhoff to finish his college career on a high note.

F | Daniel KICKERT | Saint Mary’s

Saint Mary’s is the most well represented college in the team, with three Gael’s picked in the squad. This can largely be attributed to the success of Daniel Kickert.

Kickert was among the first few Australian’s to play for the Gael’s during the early 2000’s. He made an immediate impact in his freshman year in posting 12.7 points per game while earning All-Freshman honours from Colleginsider.com. The sharpshooting big man was a three time West Coast Conference (WCC) First Team member, and in his junior year was awarded the WCC player of the year by Colleginsider.com.

Kickert sits second all-time in Saint Mary’s scoring, behind only Matthew Dellavedova and deserves his place in this team as one of the Saint Mary’s pioneers.

C | Andrew BOGUT | Utah

Bogut’s selection in this team was simply a ‘no brainer’. The 7-footer from Melbourne boasts a college resume that speaks for itself. In his first season for the University of Utah, he was selected to Collegeinsider.com’s All-Freshman team. He averaged 12.5 points and 9.9 rebounds across his first season for the Utes.

It was Bogut’s sophomore season that immortalised his legacy as a great college player. Across the 2004-05 season, Bogut averaged 20.4 points and 12.2 rebounds on his way to be named Naismith College Player of the Year and Consensus First Team All-American. Bogut’s sophomore season helped to propel the big man to being named as the NBA number one draft pick. The Aussie big man later had his No. 4 jersey retired by Utah.


Bench

C | Luc LONGLEY | New Mexico

Longley attended New Mexico from 1987-1991, and in his sophomore season, Longley broke out as he was named an honourable All-American by the Sporting News. The next season Longley improved his output again to 18.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game while being touted as a candidate for the John Wooden Award. The big man became both the first player in school history to record a triple double, but also with double-digit figures in blocks, with a 23 point, 15 rebound and 10 block performance in 1989.

Returning for his senior year, Longley had his best season with outputs of 19.1 points at a staggering 65.6% field goal percentage, along with 9.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Longley led New Mexico to the NCAA tournament where they were knocked out in the first round.

The West Australian finished his college career as New Mexico’s all-time leader in rebounds and blocks. His performances in college saw him taken with the #7 pick in the 1991 NBA Draft, making him the first Australian to play in the NBA.

C | Luke NEVILL | Utah

Luke Nevill began his freshman season at Utah with the center position wide open due to the departure of Andrew Bogut to the NBA and with big boots to fill. The West Australian put together a strong first year in the college system, averaging 11.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

As a sophomore, he upped his numbers to 16.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. The 7’2 center continued to improve in his junior season, earning All-MWC second team honours while reaching the 1,000 point and 500 rebound marks during the season.

Nevill’s senior season cemented his legacy, helping lead Utah to the NCAA Tournament. He was named the MWC Player of the Year and MWC defensive player of the year. He put up career numbers of 16.8 points, 9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game en route to being named an honourable mention All-American by the Associated Press.

G | Patty MILLS | Saint Mary’s

Patty Mills started his 2007-08 freshman season with a bang, becoming the first freshman to start for the Gael’s since Daniel Kickert. In just his fourth game with Saint Mary’s, Mills scored 37 points to beat nationally ranked Oregon. Mills helped lead Saint Mary’s to their first national ranking since 1989 and was named to the All-WCC First Team. The Gaels made it to the NCAA Tournament where Mills was the only Gael to score in double figures with 24 points before being bundled out.

Entering his sophomore season fresh off a successful Olympic campaign where he led Australia in scoring, Mills was named as a pre-season third team All-American by ESPN. He averaged an improved 18.4 points, 3.9 assists and 2.2 steals per game while being named a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, which is given to the top point guard in college basketball.

Mills was extremely impactful during his two seasons at Saint Mary’s, deciding to leave early for the NBA. His play saw him taken by the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft.

G | Anthony DRMIC | Boise State

Entering his freshman season, Anthony Drmic was inserted as an immediate starter. The AIS product averaged 12 points per game in his first year while also being named as an honourable mention to the All-Mountain West Conference (MWC) team as Freshman Player of the Year. Drmic continued to take strides in his second year, upping his scoring to 17.7 points while also leading Boise State to the NCAA Tournament. He would set a Boise State record for most points in NCAA Tournament action in exploding for 28 against LaSalle.

The 6’6 wing became the third Bronco all-time to lead the team in scoring in three separate seasons during his junior year. Drmic also finished his college career with 1,942 points, leaving him just two points shy of the all-time school record. The mark also saw him ranked fifth all time in the MWC.

F | Andrew GAZE | Seton Hall

Andrew Gaze may be the man that introduced Australia to college basketball. Largely an irrelevant competition in Australia in 1989, Seton Hall’s run to the NCAA Championship game made waves in Australia due to Gaze’s involvement.

Already a popular athlete in Australia due to his dominance of the NBL and his performances at the Olympics, Gaze made the leap and became a 23 year old freshman at Seton Hall. During his lone season with the Pirates, Gaze averaged 13.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game for one of the best teams in the nation.

Seton Hall went deep into the NCAA Tournament, eventually making the Championship game only to lose by a single point in overtime. Seton Hall led by a point with three seconds to go when a controversial foul call sent Michigan to the free-throw line to steal the title from the Pirates. The foul call still has Gaze in disbelief to this day.

Gaze’s run with Seton Hall was one of the most memorable moments for an Australian playing college basketball, however having only played one season at the collegiate level, the widely regarded ‘G.O.A.T’ of Australian basketball will have to settle with a bench spot on this squad.

F | Cameron BAIRSTOW | New Mexico

Cameron Bairstow blew everyone away in his senior campaign. The Queenslander managed to make a huge leap between his Junior and Senior seasons, upping his points average by 10.7 to 20.4 points. He began his career in a bench role averaging just 2.6 points and 1.8 rebounds in only 9.7 minutes per contest. During his sophomore season, Bairstow became a regular member of the rotation. The Lobos made the NCAA tournament in what was the first of three appearances for Bairstow.

New Mexico got off to a 12-0 start in Bairstow’s junior year, the Lobos were nationally ranked, peaking at #10. Mid-way through the season Bairstow broke into the starting line-up, finishing with an average of 12 points and 7 rebounds after he was anointed a starter.

It was Bairstow’s senior year that elevated the big man into this squad of 12. The 6’9 power forward was named as an honourable mention All-American by the Associated Press after leading New Mexico to another Mountain West Conference championship while earning tournament MVP honours. The Lobos were upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but Bairstow had cemented himself as a Lobos champion, was named The Pick and Roll’s Player of the Year, and drafted to the NBA.

F | Anatoly BOSE (Kolesnikov) |  Nicholls

While Anatoly Bose has since changed his named to Anatoly Kolesnikov and has since represented Kazakhstan, he played all of his college basketball as a New South Welshman. He began his collegiate career at Nicholls with a bang, averaging 10.8 points as a freshman. As a sophomore, Bose was named to the All-Southland Third Team after upping his scoring to 15.1 points per contest.

It was Bose’s junior season when he elevated himself to one of the most consistent scorers in college basketball. The versatile posted 21.1 points per game, which was good enough for 17th in the nation. During his junior season, the 6’7 forward scored a career high 46 points against Northwestern State which fell just two points shy of the Nicholls State all-time record.

Bose again improved his numbers in his senior season, improving to 22.1 points per game and eighth in the nation.  He finished his career at Nicholls State as the third all-time leading scorer with 2,050 points.


Honourable Mentions

Ben SIMMONS | LSU

Simmons’ one year with LSU was possibly the hardest to judge. The Ben Simmons college experience was a whirlwind, and to many fans this ‘whirlwind’ comes with many negative connotations. For starters, the most talked about player in college basketball in the 2015/16 season was struggling to win. LSU did not make the NCAA tournament and were embarrassed in the SEC Conference semifinals when they were thumped 71-38 by Texas A&M. Months later the ‘One and Done’ documentary was released, dividing opinion throughout the basketball community.

However with all this being said, it’s hard to attribute LSU’s failures to Simmons. The freshman’s play was outstanding all season, being named as a consensus first team All-American and the USBWA Freshman of the year. Simmons had one of the best individual seasons by an Australian player in college basketball history. However with just the one season played and a lack of team success, Simmons does not make the team. Perhaps as time goes on, Ben Simmons in college will be remembered more fondly.

Luke SCHENSCHER | Georgia Tech

With an array of successful Aussie centers in US College, I decided to limit the number of centers picked to just three. Perhaps Schenscher’s omission was harsh, however this imaginary team still needs to adhere to the rules of team balance! Schenscher is the unlucky victim of this seven footer squeeze.

After playing in only a limited role in his first two seasons at Georgia Tech, Schenscher took a leap forward in his junior year averaging 9.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Georgia Tech went on to qualify for the NCAA tournament final four. Schenscher scored 19 points and secured 12 rebounds in a win against Oklahoma State to send Georgia Tech to the national championship game. The Yellow Jackets fell to UCONN in an 83-72 title game defeat, leaving Schenscher agonisingly close to becoming the first Australian NCAA champion.

Brock MOTUM | Washington State

Brock Motum put in an impressive final two seasons for Washington State, elevating himself to an honourable mention on this squad. The power forward won the Pac-12 Most improved player award at the conclusion of his junior season after he averaged 18 points per game. The Queensland native also received Pac-12 first team honours as a senior.

Motum managed to increase his scoring in his senior season to 18.7 points per game, however the 6’10’ big man had to settle for Pac-12 second team honours.


That concludes our All-Time Australian NCAA D1 men’s Team. Did Liam get it right? Let us know in the comments!

4 Responses

  1. JP says:

    Andrew Vlahov at Stanford get a consideration?

  2. Jamie McHugh says:

    Venky Jois – 15 pts per game, 8 boards, 2 blocks, 2 assists, 1 steal over 4 seasons. He dominated as 6’8 undersized big.

  3. Roofman says:

    Hi Liam, some great work there. I would hasten to add that Gaze’s performances should earn him a first team selection. He was far more than a bit part player in his one year. My memory at the time told me that he played some defence, and revisiting games via Youtube some months ago, he was player of the game in the Regional Final vs UNLV and top scored vs Duke in the national semi-final. My impressions from 1989 were confirmed- he was quality on both ends, even one US commentator said so! Probably the only time before or since he was actually called to play any defence. Perhaps you could shuffle Broekhoff to the 4 (as he played in his junior year) and fit them both in at Kickert’s expense- did St Mary’s qualify for the NCAA tournament in his time there?

    JP above mentioned Vlahov at Stanford- he only averaged 11 and 7 in his senior year but was mainly there for defence. I would definitely pick him to round off the bench, perhaps Bose or Nevill would miss out. Recall that they won the NIT in 1991 (his senior year).

    One other selection was John Rillie. He lead Gonzaga to the 1995 WCC title and their first NCAA tournament bid since the John Stockton era that year (had to beat Santa Clara that year too!). Could argue that was the beginning of Gonzaga’a re-emergence as a power that continues today (Mark Few was assistant coach then). I would argue that his impact was greater than some of those on the bench (Drmic, Bose etc) who either posted greater stats in a weaker conference and/or never led their team to postseason glory.

    Sorry about long post. Good article of yours.

  4. A says:

    Some quality D2 players over the years too. Would any make the list if included?

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