Basketball Australia have named an Emus team of twelve that will head to Heraklion, Greece to take part in the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup.
While 2020 NBA Draft prospect Josh Green was named to a preliminary 23-man Australian Emus squad, it is unsurprising that he was left out of the team given his playing commitments in the US and inability to return home and his aspirations of playing for the Boomers at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Despite Green's name not appearing, the Emus boast ten returning players that helped Australia qualify for the event by winning gold at last year's Under-18 Asian Championships in Bangkok, Thailand. They are joined by Alex Ducas and 2018 FIBA Under-17 World Cup star Wani Swaka Lo Buluk.
In the official release, Emus head coach Darren Perry was impressed by the standard of the selection camp.
“We had a really competitive selection camp,” said Perry.
“With 21 players on the floor as well as some guys currently based in the USA who were unable to attend, it made for some really difficult selection decisions.”
Those who were unable to attend in addition to Green, were 2018 FIBA Under-18 stars Sam Froling (Creighton) and Kody Stattmann (Virginia), whose US college teams are currently focused on conference and NCAA Tournament success.
Froling, who paced Australia with 14.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game in 2018, is rejoined by Kyle Bowen who averaged 13.0 points and 10.3 rebounds in their Asian gold medal campaign. They formed an inposing frontline together with Callum Dalton (8.3 points per game) and Keli Leaupepe (7.2 points, 7.2 rebounds) at that event.
Fresh of garnering gold medal success at the recent Australian Under-20 Championships, Leaupepe once again links with Josh Gatbel, Sean Macdonald and Tyler Robertson.
Isaiah Lee who finished second for the team in assists with four per contest in 2018 will hook up with Kody Stattmann who hit 13 three-pointers (sixth best overall) for the tournament. Tamuri Wigness and Swaka Lo Buluk who both competed at the 2018 Under-17 World Cup will look to add some speed and x-factor to the Emus back court.
“We’re looking to play a disruptive, high-energy style of defence and that requires contributions from the entire group,” said Perry.
“As a group we want to play un-selfish basketball and celebrate everyone’s success.”
While Froling and Stattmann are already attending US College, a host of others have committed to programs for 2019, including Saint Mary's bound duo Bowen and Ducas. Robertson is headed to Cheney to play with Eastern Washington, while Lee will attend California Irvine.
The Emus will assembled in Melbourne for a camp in mid-June before traveling to Latvia for a warm-up tournament in preparation for the World Cup a week later.
Australia last took home gold at Under-19 level back in 2003 behind a tournament MVP performance from Andrew Bogut, while combined with a silver won in 1995 the only two times the Emus have medaled at the event.
When the tournament was last held in 2017, Australia was a notable absentee, with New Zealand qualifying ahead of their trans-Tasman rivalsthat year. In returning to the event for the first time since a seventh-placed finish in 2015, also in Greece, Perry was not lost on what it means to represent the green and gold on the international stage.
Currently ranked tenth in the world, the Emus will face Canada ( 2nd), Latvia (13th) and Mali (27th) in the group stage. All teams will then advance to the Round of 16 knock out stages with teams playing against each other based on their gorup standings.
“Our aim is to develop a group commitment on defence and if we buy into that system, we have the belief that we can challenge for a gold medal," added Perry.
Australian Emus for 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup
Kyle BOWEN / WA
Callum DALTON / QLD
Alex DUCAS / WA
Samson FROLING / QLD
Josh GATBEL / VIC
Keli LEAUPEPE / VIC
Isaiah LEE / NSW
Sean MACDONALD / VIC
Tyler ROBERTSON / VIC
Kody STATTMANN / QLD
Wani Swaka LO BULUK / WA
Tamuri WIGNESS / QLD
Head Coach: Darren PERRY
Assistant: Robbie MCKINLAY
Assistant: Chris ANSTEY
Team Manager: Chris OHLBACK
Doctor: Greg MACLEOD
Physiotherapist: Ryan CARROLL
Emus Schedule (all times AEST)
29 June: vs Canada at 10:30pm
30 June: vs Latvia at 11:00pm
3 July: vs Mali at 1:15am
4 July: Round of 16
6 July: Quarter-Finals
7 July: Semi-Finals
8 July: Medal Games