Kevin Lisch: From Illinois to the Australian Boomers
Of the ten players to take to the court for tip off during the Boomers Farewell Series in Melbourne last week, six of them were American-born. Only one of them however, donned the green and gold.
Kevin Lisch, just a few months removed from becoming an official Australian citizen, was in the starting line-up representing his new country. The Belleville, Illinois native finished the game with 9 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in a game-high 32 minutes of action.
"It's pretty unbelievable, I can't really describe it to tell you the truth," Kevin Lisch said on SEN Breakfast when asked what it meant to represent Australia.
"I'm just ecstatic to even be a citizen of this country and to be able to represent (Australia) is the ultimate honor."
Lisch, 30, went undrafted in the 2009 NBA draft after playing four years at Saint Louis University. Consequently, he signed with the Perth Wildcats and went on to win the Larry Sengstock Medal as MVP of the Grand Final Series in his first season in the NBL.
Lisch has since gone on to compile quite the NBL resume, having won two MVP awards (2012, 2016), an NBL championship (2010), Best Defensive Player (2016), three time All First Team (2012, 2013, 2016), three Gordon Ellis Medals as MVP of the Wildcats, and was named to the Perth Wildcats 30th Anniversary All-Star team.
Lisch has also found success by playing overseas in Puerto Rico, France and Spain. He was named Finals MVP with Piratas de Quebradillas in Puerto Rico as they won the BSN Championship in 2013. For Lisch however, Australia was always home.
"I love this country," Lisch says fondly on SEN Breakfast.
For the 188cm guard, it's not just about the basketball. He also met his wife whilst playing for the Wildcats in Perth. A former professional basketball player herself, Sydney native Rachel Watman (now Lisch), married Lisch a few years ago. The couple have gone on to have two young children. Benjamin John, born in 2013, and Sofia Grace, arriving in 2015.
They were in attendance at Hisense Arena, watching proudly as Lisch made his Australian National Team debut.
The Australian Boomers have a history of American-born players suiting up for the Olympics. The most recent was C.J. Bruton, who wore the green and gold at Athens in 2004 as well as Beijing in 2008. At the latter, he made for an explosive backcourt pairing with Patty Mills. Bruton, born in Wichita, Kansas, led the Boomers in assists during those Olympics with 3 per game, while going off for 22 points versus Russia in the group stage.
NBL legend Ricky Grace, born in Dallas, Texas, also played for Australia. He was a part of the 2000 Olympic team that finished 4th on home soil in Sydney. Grace had a 13 point game versus Canada in the group stage of that tournament.
Grace shares many similarities with Lisch. Both played four years of college basketball before things didn't work out in the NBA. Both came to Australia for the first time as imports of the Perth Wildcats. Both went on to win NBL championships with Perth. Both were awarded the MVP of the NBL Grand Final series.
Heading to Rio, Lisch is hoping to place one better than Grace did at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
The 12-man team headed to Brazil features a gluttony of high caliber guards. Patty Mills, Mathew Dellavedova, Chris Goulding, Damian Martin and Lisch. While coach Andrej Lemanis played Lisch in the starting line-up for both games of the Boomers Farewell Series against the Pac-12 All-Stars, it remains a question as to how Lisch will be utilized at the Games.
Whatever happens in Rio, Lisch will be proud to represent his new country.