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Is Alex Toohey Australia's top forward prospect?
The ACT product could be the forward Australia needs, in the next generation of elite basketball talent.
Duke University recently picked up Tyrese Proctor in their 2022 recruiting class, but he’s not the only 2004-born Aussie prospect getting attention. Alex Toohey, another rising star out of Canberra’s NBA Global Academy, has received interest from several high major programs, including Duke, Michigan and Florida. But while college basketball has historically been the default pathway for NBA hopefuls, the NBL might make a play to keep Toohey on home soil, and we can’t discount the possible lure of the G League Ignite program.
Toohey is a rangy 6’8 forward who joined the prestigious NBA Global Academy in late 2020. Since then, he has continually excelled at the annual Australian Junior Championships (AJC), including the 2022 Australian Under 20 championships - where he was a double bottom ager. Toohey averaged 16.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 6.3 assist and 4.0 steals for the Australian Capital Territory, proving to be a regular triple double threat. He also shot 47% from the field, as one of the ACT’s go to players, and led the territory to an impressive fourth place finish.
Toohey ranked first in the tournament for assists, and routinely showed off his guard skills by pushing the ball in transition. The 18 year old may be listed as a forward, but has the skill and athleticism to play anywhere from one to four, making him a coach’s dream in terms of versatility. On the defensive end, Toohey puts his 6’10 wingspan to good use, as he led the 2022 Under 20 championships in steals (with 4.0 per game).
“I can play above the rim but I also have the ability to make shots. I play with poise, I play smart and I can find passes,” Toohey told 247 Sports in July.
When watching Toohey play, the first thing that stands out is his ability to put the ball on the floor, and drive to the rack.
The forward could project as a wing at the next level, and doesn’t shy away from isolation perimeter possessions. He’s also adept at finishing through traffic. With a professional strength training regime ahead, there’s only room for growth.
Toohey has also improved his footwork in the paint, such that he is comfortable using Euro steps to confuse defenders and create separation. Again, his ability to finish through contact stands out, as the confident slasher is no stranger to the “and one”.
If there’s one area Toohey will be looking to improve on, it’s his shooting, although this is a common theme on the high school scene. The 18 year old was previously a reluctant shooter, attempting just eleven three-pointers across nine games at the 2021 Australian Under 18 Championships. At the 2022 Under 20 edition however, Toohey showed increased confidence from beyond the arc, attempting 26 treys across seven games. Although he only made seven of those 26 attempts at a 27% clip, he is trending in the right direction, as the jumper will be a priority moving forward.
Aside from his exploits at the AJC, Toohey has also been a standout for Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence (CoE), in the 2022 NBL1 Wildcard series. He is averaging 12.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists at the time of writing, while shooting 57% from the field, across twelve games against grown men.
What’s more intriguing however, is the fact that he has made twelve of 27 three-point attempts in NBL1 action, at a 44% clip. Toohey’s jumper certainly passes the eye test, as he imparts an impressive arc on the ball, and achieves full elbow extension without a significant ball dip. From here on, it’s simply a matter of reps in the gym, as his shot has reached new heights since joining the NBA Global Academy.
Aside from his three ball, Toohey has also been working on his short range jumper, to improve his versatility when trapped in the paint. This is an important skill when matched up against smaller defenders, as an alternative to kicking the ball back out to the perimeter, or having to search for cutters. As a free throw shooter, Toohey is shooting 69% from the charity stripe in the 2022 NBL1 season, and made 72% of his freebies at the 2022 Australian Under 20 Championships. While these are sound numbers, they suggest room for improvement, in terms of refining a consistent shooting form.
Given that he is 6’8 and has a 6’10 wingspan, it stands to reason that Toohey may ultimately develop into a power forward’s body. The 18 year old would benefit immensely from a consistent post game, and this is something we’ve already seen glimpses of in the NBL1. While it’s probably too early to expect Olajuwon-esque footwork around the basket, Toohey has shown an ability to shoot out of the post, after backing down his defender into an appropriate position.
On the defensive end, Toohey is athletic and versatile enough to guard multiple positions, making him highly switchable. As mentioned previously, he was a steals merchant at the 2022 Australian Under 20 Championships, and is currently averaging 1.0 steals in the NBL1, in addition to 0.75 blocks per game. The lanky forward is also adept at turning defense into offence, with strong rebounding instincts, and a handle that enables him to push the ball in transition.
“I think I am pretty versatile offensively and defensively,” Toohey told 247 Sports in July. “I can guard one-to-four, sometimes one-to-five on defence.”
Toohey told 247Sports he has already visited Providence college, a Big East school that was once home to Perth Wildcats legend Bryce Cotton. “I have been talking to Davidson, Providence, St. Mary's, Iowa State, Charleston and some others,” he added. College basketball is the tried and tested route for CoE graduates, but if Toohey maintains his current form on the Australian junior scene, professional opportunities may start to open up. The NBL’s Next Stars program has seen graduates like LaMelo Ball and Josh Giddey earn lottery selection in the NBA draft, while Dyson Daniels is the poster boy for the G League Ignite program.
There’s also the possibility that Toohey might take the Dante Exum route. Toohey turns 19 next year, meaning he will be eligible for the NBA draft, but it’s a question of whether his stock will be high enough, to jump from Canberra to the NBA. Exum took advantage of meets such as the Nike Hoop Summit and FIBA Under 19 World Championships, and earned a fifth overall NBA draft selection, despite training at the CoE right up until the draft. Toohey would currently be a short priced favourite to earn a Hoop Summit invite next year, and the 2023 FIBA Under 19 Basketball World Cup may be a seminal moment for him.
Regardless of the path he chooses however, Toohey projects as a key forward option for the Boomers, several years down the line. While Giddey, Daniels and Proctor have started a new wave of NBA caliber guard prospects, Toohey could be the complementary forward on the international stage. For those hoping to catch a glimpse of Toohey in action, the rising star has been named to represent Australia in the upcoming FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, against Bahrain and Iran.