The Australian Crocs commence their 2018 FIBA Under-17 World Cup campaign in Argentina this weekend, aiming to return to the medal winning list after coming away empty-handed at their last attempt in 2016.
In speaking with Australian head coach Justin Schueller in Argentina, he explained that the team was focused on continuing Australia's proud history of earning medals at the event, following back-to-back silver's in 2012 and 2014.
“Our primary goal is to try to win this event," shared Schueller. "The Crocs have a proud history of being medalist and we are aiming to do the same.
"We believe in our group and with the seeding we have. If we can play to the level we know we can, we should have a good tournament. It’s always such a high standard and exciting level of play; we know there are no easy games. We can’t wait to get started and see where we sit against the worlds best."
Australia has been pooled in Group A with the Dominican Republic, Turkey and Puerto Rico, with the results of the group stage shaping the Round of 16 and their seeding for the knock-out stages through to the finals.
“USA, Canada and the European nationals are always a challenge, but our focus right now is on our first game in the Dominican Republic, they are our greatest challenge right now," further added Schueller. "We plan to have a narrow focus and take on each opponent as it comes.
“We have an athletic and versatile team that can play disruptively and I think that will be our point of difference against the other countries. We can pick up full length of the floor and be quite pesky at the defensive end and offensively, our pace, spacing and ability to get into the paint by sharing the ball will put us in good stead.”
Schueller's side has since played two warm up games against Puerto Rico and Canada, including an opening 71-60 victory over the South Americans and a narrow 73-74 loss to the North Americans. He was pleased with the progress leading up to their opening game of the tournament and is looking forward to the challenge ahead.
The Crocs will suit up nine players from the Under-16 Asian Championships gold medal winning side, a tournament than enabled Australia to qualify for the Under-17 World Cup. The returning players are joined by three additions in Joshua Bannan (Victoria), Blake Jones (Queensland) and Campbell Green (New South Wales).
“We had an intensive camp to figure out what we needed post-Asia Champs,” said head coach Justin Schueller in explaining the team's roster.
“We were very happy with the squad but felt we needed to be able to stretch the floor with shooting and add a bit more size. Campbell is a strong centre, Josh is a stretch-4 and Blake is a versatile wing who can shoot really well so we feel we have filled those areas.
“The team then spent time working on who we are and what we want to be for the World Cup."
Diminutive point guard Tamuri Wigness headlines the side, having impressed talent scouts with his speed and ball handling ability at the recent 2018 NBA Global Camp in Treviso, Italy where he was joined by Luke Travers, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk and Hunter Clarke. While Schueller has added some size to the team from the successful Asian Championship side, his front court depth may still pose a challenge for what will be a very quick team that is expected to run the floor at every opportunity, especially with Wigness at the helm.
Australia last claimed a medal at the event in 2014 behind the outstanding play of Isaac Humphries and Dejan Vasiljevic. The duo was named to the All-Tournament Team en-route to helping their country win silver behind the USA. Current NBA duo Dante Exum and Ben Simmons also guided Australia to silver back in 2012. Australia however finished just seventh two years ago, and it was a result that Schueller was hoping to correct in this campaign.
“We are mindful of the proud tradition of the Crocs program and the success we have had in the past,” said Schueller.
“We believe we can do something special with this group.”
Australia tips off their World Cup campaign against the Dominican Republic in the early hours of Sunday morning (1 July) at 2:15am. You can catch every Australian game live and free with commentary provided by 'the voice of the QBL' Jon Guarna who will be joined by Damian Arsenis via FIBA's official coverage live streamed on The Pick and Roll's Facebook page.
Australian 'Crocs' Schedule (all times AEST)
July 1: Australia vs. Domincan Republic at 2.15am July 2: Australia vs. Turkey at 4.30am July 4: Australia vs. Puerto Rico at 2.15am July 5: Round of 16 July 7: Quarter-Finals July 8: Semi-Finals July 9: Medal Games
The Pick and Roll will be streaming every Australian game LIVE thanks to FIBA with commentary provided by 'the voice of the QBL' Jon Guarna who will be joined by Damian Arsenis via Facebook.
Australian Crocs for 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup
Joshua BANNAN / VIC Joel CAPETOLA / VIC Hunter CLARKE / TAS Campbell GREEN / NSW Luke JACKSON / WA Hunter MADDEN / NSW Blake JONES / QLD Jay RANTALL / VIC Wani SWAKA LO BULUK / WA Luke TRAVERS / WA Tamuri WIGNESS / QLD Kobe WILLIAMSON / VIC
Head Coach: Justin SCHUELLER Assistant Coach: David INGHAM Assistant Coach: Nathan COOPER-BROWN Physiotherapist: Lauren DIXON Physician: Carlee VAN DYK Manager: Mark SAINSBERY
1 July: Australia vs Domincan Republic @ 2:15am 2 July: Australia vs Turkey @ 4:30am 4 July: Australia vs Puerto Rico @ 2:15am 5 July: Round of 16 7 July: Quarter-Finals 8 July: Semi-Finals 9 July: Medal Games