With just over 6 months to go before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Australian Boomers head coach Andrej Lemanis took some time out to share his planning and the teams' schedule in preparation for a tilt at a gold medal.
Lemanis headed to the US
"I'm heading the [United] States on Monday," explained Lemanis over the phone, with a hint of excitement clearly evidence in his voice. "I will be checking in with all the [Aussie] NBA guys and also Ben Simmons."
"With Ben and his family, I will sit down with them and assess the situation. If there are any obstacles, we will try and work out what we can potentially do to overcome them. However all that aside, we will have to wait until after the NBA Draft as his new team will likely have a say in the final decision."
With NBA All Star break, Lemanis confirmed he would not be joining the Australian NBA players at their San Diego get-together, rather allowing the players to do their thing and continue to build on the bonds that have formed throughout the past three Boomers campaigns. Lemanis will instead catch up with each player individually in their home city as part of the Boomers preparation that is limited due to the duration of the NBA season that concludes in June. However Lemanis is confident that the commitment made by each of the core group following the 2015 FIBA Oceania Series win over New Zealand has laid the foundation for success at Rio.
"After the Oceania series, we debriefed as a team and discussed the next 12 months and the build up to Rio. Every single player made a commitment to the team with an objective of winning gold. Certain behaviours would be required to have any chance to win gold, and to date, every single player has stayed true that commitment and goal. The guys have been fantastic and remain 100% committed and we will be stronger as a team for it."
Selecting the team
Lemanis, who enters his 4th major campaign as Boomers head coach, acknowledged the value of having a core group of players that have players together and know systems was likely to prove invaluable come Rio. He was clearly very focussed on assembling the best possible team to head to the Olympics, with a strong mix of US and European-based players all in very good form right now. Embed from Getty Images
"I was in Europe in December to catch up with a number of the players there," explained Lemanis. "Dave [Andersen] is feeling as good as he has in a long time. He is a very good shape, great form, and playing with confidence. 'Rowdy' [Ryan Broekhoff] is doing very well in [Lokomotiv] Kuban, having cemented his place in the starting five on a very good Euroleague team. Brock [Motum] has also been contributing on a Euroleague league team, while 'Newls' has been outstanding for Gran Canaria. He has accepted his leadership role on the team and is not playing relaxed, allowing him to play with freedom and confidence."
It is sometimes all too easy to forget the caliber of Australian talent playing in Europe when their counterparts in the NBA are doing so well. Andersen is averaging 11.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game for ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne in the French Pro A, while in the Euroleague, Broekhoff is posting 8.6 points per game and shooting the three-ball at 45.6%, and Motum is delivering 7.4 points per game. In the Eurocup, Newley has been good for 8 points per contest as well. When you also add some of the exceptional talent in the NBL, Lemanis may well end up with a selection headache - a good problem to have.
While Lemanis confirmed he would also be visiting Dante Exum on his visit to the US, he confirmed he would not be catching up with Thon Maker whom he confirmed had previously indicated a desire to represent Australia, which Maker again reconfirmed as a recently as December last year. Lemanis remained hopeful that Maker may at some stage make himself available for a Boomers camp, however 2016 appears unlikely.
"We will select a squad of 24 as required by FIBA regulations," outlined Lemanis. "16 will then be invited to the 10-day camp from which the final team of 12 will be announced."
Could the Boomers be entering a golden age of Australian basketball? While the road to Rio is still a long way away yet, Lemanis and the Boomers appear well placed in their preparations in order to achieve their goal of gold.
The Boomers Schedule
5 July 2016: Boomers Selection Camp (10 days)
20 July 2016: Argentina Training Camp, with exhibition games against Argentina and Lithuania
26 July 2016: Brazil (Sao Paulo), 3 game exhibition tournament
1 August 2016: Arrive in Rio Olympic Games Village
5 August 2016: Rio Olympic Games commence