Aussie college: Class of 2013 review - arguably the best ever

Matthew Dellavedova at the Olympics. Photo credit Scott Belzner

The 2012/13 NCAA basketball season may well have boasted the deepest level of Australian talent on record, with an amazing 59 Australian men on division 1 rosters. While there are some amazingly talented players set to head to college or graduate over coming years, the senior class of 2013 may well prove to be Australia's best ever. Name Position School Professional Club Femi AKINPETIDE Forward Sacred Heart University Ryan BROEKHOFF Guard/Forward Valparaiso University Besiktas, Turkey Matthew DELLAVEDOVA Guard Saint Mary’s College Cleveland, NBA TJ DIOP Forward/Center Seattle University Shola DIOP Forward/Center Winthrop University Cody ELLIS Forward Saint Louis University Sydney, NBL Daniel FISHER Forward American University Shane HARRIS-TUNKS* Forward/Center University of Colorado Wollongong, NBL Damon HEUIR Guard Southern Utah University Jordan HICKERT Forward Eastern Washington University Dejan KOSTUR Forward Idaho State University Liam McINERNEY Forward Stetson University Brock MOTUM Forward Washington State University Virtus Bologna, Italy Mathiang MUO Forward Charleston Southern University Perth, NBL Joel NABURGS Forward Stetson University Brad REID Center University of Missouri-Kansas City Mitchell YOUNG Forward Saint Mary’s College Cairns, NBL NCAA Division 1 Basketball: 2013 Australian Senior Class (last updated 22 September 2013)

*Harris-Tunks was a Red-Shirt Junior (4th year)

The Standouts

An impressive group of 17 Australians graduated this year, many of whom have already signed their first professional contracts. However if you are looking for the standouts, it is almost impossible to go past the trio of Brock Motum (Washington State University), Ryan Broekhoff (Valparaiso University) and Matthew Dellavedova (Saint Mary's College).

Brock Motum - Washington State University

After a quiet first two years, a change of head coach saw 6'10" power forward Motum finally get his chance at Washington State University. As a junior Motum had a breakout season to lead the league in scoring with 18ppg on his way to not only being named Pac-12 Most Improved Player, but also selected to the All-Pac-12 First Team. Quite simply he had become a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-12 (known as the Pac-10 in 2011/12).

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Motum backed up his stellar 2011/12 season with arguably an even better senior year; once again leading the Pac-12 in scoring (18.7ppg), posting at least 11 points in all 32 games played and recording 5 double-doubles. He again earned due recognition by being named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team and if he had a better supporting cast around him, one could argue he would have been named to the First Team. In leaving a lasting legacy with Washington State University, he moved into fifth on all-time career scoring list (1,530 points), with his 597 points as a senior placing him sixth all-time. And to top off his stellar collegiate career, he became just the 12th Cougar to score 1,000 points and pull down 500 rebounds (539).

As a mobile power forward with scoring range beyond the three-point line, Motum is a legitimate 'stretch-four' who has an innate ability to score. Following his individual success with the Cougars and in the Pac-12, Motum was invited to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (showcase for graduating seniors) to further demonstrate his capability. And whilst he went undrafted, he still had interest from many NBA teams, including playing for the Philadelphia 76ers in the Orlando Summer League before eventually signing his first professional contract with Italian Serie A powerhouse Virtus Bologna.

Ryan Broekhoff - Valparaiso University

After playing a solid supporting role off the bench in his freshman year, Broekhoff was elevated to the starting line up as a sophomore and made an immediate impact in averaging 10.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. He was quickly becoming known for his overall efficiency and sharp shooting from long range, leading the Horizon League in three-point percentage (44.8%) over the season and was in the league’s top 10 for three’s made.

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Playing out of his preferred position as the team’s 4-man, Broekhoff was outstanding as a junior. He did everything and was everywhere on his way to leading his team to the Horizon League tournament final only to see his team fall agonisingly short of winning their way to the NCAA Tournament. As the team’s leader, Broekhoff recorded an amazing 12 double-doubles whilst averaging 14.9 points, 8.5 rebounds (league high), 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game in a stellar season. Broekhoff was able to demonstrate his versatility in being able play a number of positions and do what his team needed of him; he could score, rebound, find the open man, defend bigger opponents and block shots.

It was no surprise that Broekhoff was named 2011/12 Horizon League player of the Year and selected to the All-Horizon League First Team. He also received national accolades in being named AP All-America honourable mention alongside fellow countryman Dellavedova (who was also 2011/12 Player of the Year in the WCC) to cap off a stellar individual season.

Broekhoff was able to improve yet again over the course of his senior year, increasing his scoring output to a collegiate career-high of 15.7 ppg whilst leading the Crusaders to the Horizon League title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. He will be fondly remembered by the Crusader faithful for his miraculous fall-away triple game-winner at the buzzer in the Horizon League tournament semi-final. Despite his amazing season, Broekhoff was not named Player of the Year but was once again named to the All-Horizon League First Team; yet he also gained selection to the 2013 Lou Henson All-American Team.

Broekhoff like Motum attended the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and also went undrafted. While he trialled for a number of NBA teams, with a Danish passport in his possession, Broekhoff was always likely to head to Europe, eventually signing his first professional contract with Turkish club Besiktas.

Matthew Dellavedova - Saint Mary's College

Dellavedova's college career over four years with Saint Mary's College is almost unrivalled by any other Australian. As a first year player he started every game and was named All-WCC Freshman Player of the Year and All-WCC Honourable Mention. What impressed everyone was his leadership and his ability to improve his game every season as was evidenced through being named to the All-WCC First Team three straight times.

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His list of accolades does not just end there either. Dellavedova led the Gael's to West Coast Conference glory in overcoming arch-rivals Gonzaga in 2012 by winning the regular season and tournament championships, earning an NCAA tournament berth, and scoring the WCC Tournament Most Valuable Player award along the way. Dellevedova was instrumental in guiding the Gael's to the 'Sweet Sixteen' round of the NCAA tournament and was named WCC Player of the Year.

As a senior, Dellavedova continued to lead by example and arguably enjoyed his best individual season to date in taking the Gael's back to the NCAA tournament. He logged career-high averages in points (15.8), assists (6.1), steals (1.1) and three-point shooting percentage (38.2%) and was well and truly entrenched as the team's star player.

In starting all but three games during his college career (he came off the bench for the first 3 games of his sophomore year in returning from injury), Dellavedova's list of achievements is simply remarkable. Without even looking at his statistical averages, his other accolades include:

  • WCC All-Academic Team (2011,2012,2013),

  • NetScouts Basketball All-International Team (2011,2012,2013),

  • Naismith Award watch list (2012,2013),

  • Bob Cousy Award final 5 selection (2012,2013),

  • AP All-America honourable mention (2012,2013),

  • NABC All-District Team (2012,2013),

  • Lou Henson All-America Team (2012,2013),

  • All-America Academic First Team (2012),

  • Capital One Academic All-District ® 8 First Team (2012),

  • Capital One All-America First Team (2012),

  • WCC All-Academic Team (2012),

  • USBWA All-District IX Team (2012,2013),

  • NABC Honours Court for academic excellence (2012,2013),

  • Saint Mary’s College Male Athlete of the Year (2013),

  • John R. Wooden National Player of the Year watch list (2013),

  • Senior CLASS Award Finalist (2013),

  • Capital One Academic All-America ® Second Team (2013),

  • Lou Henson Player of the Year (2013),

  • Saint Mary’s College George R. McKeon Award (2013),

  • WCC Commissioner's Honour Roll (2013),

  • WCC Mike Gilleran Scholar-Athlete of the Year (2013).

Dellavedova ended his time with the Gael’s as the school’s all-time leader in career points (1,933), assists (778), three-pointers made (288) and attempts (761), free throw percentage (86%), starts (133) and games played (136). Leaving with an impressive 105-28 record as a starter, the 6'5" point guard earned a reputation for being a fantastic leader who did what it took to make his team better and more importantly, win. Only Andrew Bogut (University of Utah) could mount a case for a more impressive collegiate career on his way to being selected as the number 1 draft pick in the 2005 NBA draft. Whilst he went undrafted, he has received extensive NBA interest and is currently attempting to secure the last roster spot with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Best of the Rest: Gone Professional

Whilst Motum, Broekhoff and Dellavedova were the clear standouts, there were a few other notable graduates who deserve a mention after fantastic collegiate careers and have since signed their first professional contracts.

Mathiang Muo – Charleston Southern University

After starting his collegiate career with Northeastern, Muo transferred to the Buccaneers and was immediately thrust into the starting line-up and contributed to their success over two years culminating in their first Big South regular season title in 26 years. The 6’5” forward can play both small and power forward, and made a name for himself as a deadly three-point sharpshooter. He averaged 42 percent from beyond the arc as a junior and led the Big South in his last 2 years with 135 three-pointers made. As a senior he averaged 11.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game before signing a three-year deal with the Perth Wildcats in the Australian National Basketball League (NBL) and then soon after tearing his achilles tendon in only his second training session with the team.

Cody Ellis – Saint Louis University

Despite missing the first 14 games of his freshman year, the 6’8” Ellis averaged 10.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game on his way to being named to the A-10 All-Rookie team. A season ending shoulder injury severely impacted the forward’s sophomore season. He bounced back in playing a 6th man role in coming off the bench as a junior and senior and made a name for himself as a solid defender and three-point marksman. He nailed 69 and 62 triples respectively in his last two years and was named A-10 6th Man of the Year as a senior after averaging 10.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as Saint Louis reached the NCAA Tournament after winning the A-10 title. Ellis was expected to land in his hometown of Perth, but ended up signing a 2-year contract with the Sydney Kings.

Mitchell Young – Saint Mary’s College

Young both joined and left the Gael’s alongside Dellavedova, and in between had a very good although unspectacular collegiate career. It was not until his sophomore season that the 6’9” forward earned a real chance to demonstrate his capability; he duly led the WCC in field goal percentage (60.7%) on his way to recording 19 double-digit scoring games and a career-high 28 point game against Long Beach State. It was to be his most productive season where he averaged 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. As a junior Young’s progress was stymied by injury, yet he bounced back to start every game as a senior (just one of three players to do so). Known for being a solid all-round forward, he improved his outside shot to beyond the arc in his time with the Gael’s and leaves tied in sixth place in the school’s career field goal percentage rankings (55.6%). Hailing from Queensland, Young signed a two-year deal with the Cairns Taipans in the NBL.

Shane Harris-Tunks – Colorado University

Joining the Buffaloes alongside countryman Nate Tomlinson, Harris-Tunks quickly filled a big man role in coming off the bench and leading the team in blocked shots as a freshman. However his rise was abruptly halted; he tore ACL before playing a game and therefore missed the entire 2010/11 season. He bounced back to again lead the team in blocked shots over the next two years on their way to back to back NCAA Tournament appearances, winning the Pac-12 Tournament Championship in 2011/12. He averaged only 8.7 minutes, 1.3 points, and 1.6 rebounds per game as a red-shirt junior. With good size (6’11”, 213kg) and strength, Harris-Tunks can change shots and provides a good presence in the paint at both ends of the floor. After four years in the classroom he graduated and decided to turn professional, signing in his home state with the Wollongong Hawks in the NBL.

Damon Heuir – Southern Utah University

The 6’2” combo guard had a relatively quiet start to his career with the Thunderbirds, but eventually secured a starting role at the point guard position as a sophomore in playing every game that season. But it was as a junior that Heuir began to shine, starting all but two games on his way to averaging 10.1 points and 3.1 assists per game and leading the team with 33 three-pointers on a team-high 104 attempts. A 33-point explosion against Bryant highlighted his ability to light up the scoreboard, and he followed on with an exemplary senior year. He scored more than 20 points in a game 6 times throughout 2012/13 on his way to averaging a team-high 15.5 points, 3.2 assists and 4 rebounds per game. He has an ability to run a team but also score when left open. Since graduating, Heuir has been playing with the Mackay Meteors in the Queensland Basketball League (QBL) whilst continuing to work towards securing a contract with an NBL team.

What do you think of the new Aussie blood making their way out into the world, which player is your favourite so far? Let us know what you think.