With the 2017 World University Games set to commence in Taipei from 20 August, the Emerging Boomers are aiming high despite a limited preparation due to challenges posed in physically assembling the team that comprises of players based across Australia and the United States.
The side boasts a tantalising mix of NBL and US-based NCAA Division I players, and despite the tyranny of distance, Australia's assistant coach Jamie O'Loughlin advised that the coaching team led by Mark Radford, Mike Kelly and himself, had been preparing as best they can using technology to their advantage.
"All the planning has been done remotely," shared former Perth Wildcats assistant coach O'Loughlin in speaking exclusively with The Pick and Roll just prior to departing Australia. "We have been using technology to help overcome some of the challenges, including holding online meetings where everyone can see each other face to face. While not ideal, it actually has been quite useful."
With such a limited on-court preparation, O'Loughlin explained that all the planning would come together when they arrived in Taipei.
"We will meet up together prior to the tournament in Taipei," said O'Loughlin. "We have three practice games scheduled, against Germany, Estonia and Argentina.
"While we have not yet assembled [prior to arriving in Taipei], we are not alone. Most of the other countries are in exactly the same position as us. Player availability has severely limited the preparations of everyone, with the players' schedules and the tournament's timing making it very difficult."
One team that has not experienced the same challenges is that representing the USA, with Purdue University being selected to represent their country.
"Purdue are probably the only team that have played together," explained O'Loughlin. The bulk of the countries are just like us - and it makes it extremely hard to gauge the level of competition we will be up against, even more so as the final team lists have not yet been released and we may not see the until we arrive."
While the Emerging Boomers boast a well-balanced side, it was difficult to look past some of top-tier NCAA talent that was notably absent from the team. Names such as Jock Landale (Saint Mary's), Deng Adel (Louisville), Chima Moneke (UC Davis) and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr (Baylor) were just some of the names missing from the final team named. O'Loughlin was quick to explain the logic behind the team's selection.
"Our initial search for players includied reaching out to those who had performed well over the past year or two," said O'Loughlin. "We checked on their availability, and then whittled down the shortlist.
"We spoke to the guys, and they all wanted to play. Unfortunately this event just did not mesh with where some of them were at [with their schedules or due to injury]. It would be crazy to think that as a coach we would not be looking to put our best possible team on the court."
Despite the unavailability of some seriously talented players, O'Loughlin was excited about the group that had been assembled.
"The team has bonded together very quickly," outlined O'Loughlin. "There is some super talent in this group. Some of them are coming towards the end of their college careers, while some are already pro's in the early stages of their career. There is plenty of potential and some fantastic talent."
That talent includes Melbourne United duo Craig Moller and Kyle Adnam. Moller has just come off a debut season with the Sydney Kings followed by a stellar SEABL season with Ballarat where he is averaging almost a double-double. Adnam had a breakout year with Melbourne last season, and both players could be expected to take leadership roles on a team brimming with college talent.
Xavier Cooks had a near conference player of the year season at Winthrop and is sure to feature prominently. Saint Mary's back court stars Emmett Naar and Tanner Krebs are in the side, as is Miami's sharpshooter Dejan Vasiljevic. Combined with their remaining team mates, most who are former Australian junior representatives, O'Loughlin was excited by the prospect of continuing to fostering the Boomers' style of play from Rio.
"Four years back, Basketball Australia and Andrej [Lemanis] set out a style of play for the national program," shared O'Loughlin. "We will be looking to employ similar themes, as there is room for adjustments.
"Defense and attitude have been the backbone of Aussie teams. Playing together and for each other, and going the extra mile. That will remain in place and be the minimum expectation."
Unfortunately for Australia, Duop Reath has been ruled out of the tournament due to injury and will not be replaced as per a report via Basketball Australia. The team will run throughout the tournament with 11 players.
The Emerging Boomers earned silver at the 2013 World University Games in Russia, a side boasting 2016 Rio Olympians Cameron Bairstow and Ryan Broekhoff.
Australia has been pooled in Group D alongside Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Israel and Mozambique, kick-starting their campaign against Ukraine at 2:30pm on Sunday, 20 August 2017.
World University Games Schedule: Emerging Boomers (all times AEST)
August 20: Australia vs Ukraine at 2:30pm
August 21: Australia vs Lithuania at 5:00pm
August 23: Australia vs Israel at 5:00pm
August 24: Australia vs Russia at 2:30pm
August 25: Australia vs Mozambique at 12:00pm
August 27: Quarterfinals
August 28: Semifinals
August 29: Grand Final
Kyle ADNAM | Melbourne United
Emmett NAAR | Saint Mary’s
Dejan VASILJEVIC | Miami
Matthew KENYON | Brisbane Bullets
Tanner KREBS | Saint Mary’s
Xavier COOKS | Winthrop
Jack MCVEIGH | Nebraska
Rhys VAGUE | Perth Wildcats
Craig MOLLER | Melbourne United
Tyrell HARRISON | Brisbane Bullets
Duop REATH | Louisiana State
Gorjok GAK | Florida State