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Booking a Boomers ticket to Rio: The Aussies in the NBL
After the 26-player squad was announced for the Olympics, the debate has moved on to just who will be on the Qantas A380 that touches down in Rio.
Last week we assessed the chances of those currently playing in Europe, and before that North America. We round out the analysis by checking on those playing in the NBL in Australia.
With not many seats left up in first-class (or is that business class?), who will make the cut and be granted a coveted golden (and green) ticket by Head Coach Andrej Lemanis?
Todd BLANCHFIELD | Melbourne United
The Melbourne United forward has been on the cusp of Boomer’s selection for a long time. However he is likely to stay on the cusp when it comes to Rio.
Blanchfield had a great start to the year for his new side, but tailed off in the second half of the season. It was his lowest average scoring year since 2012/13, he did however set a new career high in rebounds at 6.47 a game.
Still only 24 years old, Blanchfield may make an Olympic playing roster, however 2016 is not going to be the year.
Prediction: Left his suitcase at home, will have to turn around and miss the flight.
Mitch CREEK | Adelaide 36ers
The uber-athletic 36er last year competed in the World University Games. He was one of Australia’s best performers, and was extra impressive against Lithuania despite a loss.
Creek had a solid year for Adelaide averaging close to 10 points and 4 rebounds per game. He continues to be a pivotal part of his side and any success they have.
Rio is unlikely to be Mitch Creek’s Olympic debut, however he will likely turn some heads in training camp, and will also probably dunk on someone too.
Prediction: Doing box jumps, and bench presses at home.
Adam GIBSON | Adelaide 36ers
Creek’s Adelaide teammate featured in all six of Australia’s 2014 FIBA World Cup campaign games, and also had a part to play in the recent FIBA Oceania Championships.
Gibson’s production was slightly down for the 2015/16 NBL season, adding to that his side also just missed out on a playoff spot.
Andrej Lemanis is unlikely to take both Gibson and Damian Martin to Rio. It could very likely come down to who performs better at training camp.
Prediction: Wrestling with Damian Martin to be the first to check in.
Nathan JAWAI | Perth Wildcats
Nate has been in and out of the Boomer’s side for years, injury playing a major part in him not being able to solidify a spot.
Jawai’s return to the NBL was a success; he averaged 10.34 points in under 2o minutes per game. He was also crucial in Perth’s championship winning finals campaign.
We saw the impact that the big man can have at the 2015 FIBA Oceania Championships, and he was part of the 2014 FIBA Championship team. Andrej Lemanis may decide to take Jawai to Rio as he provides something that others do not, however he is nowhere near a lock. Jawai simply made Perth a more dominant team.
Prediction: Rushing the worker at the check in desk – the last call for boarding announced over the PA system.
Daniel KICKERT| Melbourne United
Now in the second half of his career, ‘Kicks’ has had an up and down international career. It is doubtful that he will feature at Rio 2016.
Kickert had a huge NBL season scoring wise, averaging close 15 points per game and earning All-NBL First Team selection. However his rebounding numbers dropped and were at less than 4 a game. Hi ability to stretch defenses with his three-point shooting should not be overlooked.
Considering the players that are likely to be available, it is hard to see Daniel Kickert breaking into the twelve-man playing roster for the Olympics.
Prediction: Held up at airport security - isn't going to make it.
Kevin LISCH | Illawarra Hawks
The reigning NBL MVP just recently been granted Australian citizenship and thus is available to be selected for Australia in the Olympics.
Lisch averaged close to 20 points and 3.5 assists per game and led his side to a semi-final berth. Just recently it was announced that he has decided to change clubs for the 2016/17 season and has signed for the Sydney Kings.
The ex-Wildcat and Illawarra Hawk has never been better, and could be the surprise choice from Andrej Lemanis. Lisch could be a lethal weapon off the bench for the Aussies, and there is a huge question mark over whether he may be selected.
Prediction: Just cleared immigration, waiting on Andrej Lemanis' call about which gate he needs to go to.
Damian MARTIN | Perth Wildcats
Martin first played for the Boomer's at the 2009 FIBA Oceania Championship, however his international career has been limited by injuries.
'Damo' was a huge part of Perth's success again in this past season. Claiming the NBL Finals MVP, he was incredible throughout the whole playoffs, game one of the Grand Final series was particularly impressive. A renowned defender, it ability to earn a spot in the Boomers has often come down to his ability to consistently hit from beyond the arc.
As stated earlier, Adam Gibson will be the main competition for Damian Martin, although Kevin Lisch may have something to say about that. Martin's super impressive NBL season may be the difference.
Prediction: Wrestling with Adam Gibson (and potentially Kevin Lisch) to be the first to check in.
Mitch NORTON | Townsville Crocodiles
The Townsville Croc first represented Australia at the U17 FIBA World Championships, and has also appeared at the World University Games, and multiple Stankovic Cups.
No doubt one of the better players for his club, Norton put together a decent year averaging 8.9 points and 2.8 assists per game. He has shown to also be a very tough and durable player and was one of the most improved players in the NBL this past season along with Steindl.
At just 23 years old Norton has been selected to the preliminary squad to get him some further experience in the system. It is very unlikely he will find himself travelling to the Olympics this year
Prediction: Listening to "I Go To Rio" at home, while the team actually goes to Rio.
Clint STEINDL | Townsville Crocodiles
An U19 Australian representative, Steindl, like Mitch Norton, has also worn the green and gold at the World University Games and the Stankovic Cup
The NBL's Most Improved Player for 2015/2016 was super impressive despite his team's struggles throughout the year. Steindl averaged 12.75 points through 28 games. His deadly perimeter shooting is always a valued asset at international level.
Clint Steindl is coming into the prime of his career, however he is unlikely to have a seat reserved for him on the plane to Rio.
Prediction: Laughing while watching Mitch Norton dance to "I Go To Rio" while the Boomer's plane flies over head.
Lucas WALKER | Adelaide 36ers
Lucas Walker has become somewhat of a Boomer's squad regular, however he is yet to be included in the playing roster for a major tournament.
New to the Adelaide 36ers, Walker took some time finding his feet. However he did end up becoming a useful tool for coach Joey Wright.
This time round is likely to be a similar story in terms of tournament selection for the athletic Tasmanian native. Although his squad teammates will have to keep an eye out to make sure they keep out of his poster.
Prediction: Working out with Mitch Creek, somehow gaining more muscle.
So that's it for our review of the 26-man Boomer's squad. We have travelled across the globe, and made a prediction of each player's chances of being granted one of the 12 golden (and green) tickets. Now we look to Andrej Lemanis and his coaching staff to see who they decide to bring with them on the Jumbo Jet to Rio. Boarding now Flight Bring-Home-A-Medal!