Basketball Australia have announced an extended squad of 24 players for the FIBA World Cup qualifiers to be played in Melbourne against the Philippines and Chinese Taipei on 22 and 25 February.
Boomers head coach Andrej Lemanis has opted for a flexible group of NBL-based players, which also includes some young blood as well.
Former Australian junior representatives Anthony Drmic (Adelaide) and Isaac Humphries are additions with one eye on the future. With most of Australia's top-level junior talent currently playing college basketball in the US, it is good to see Lemanis investing in some younger talent playing at home in Australia. Australia's NBA and European based players also remain unavailable due to their competition schedules and the tyranny of distance.
After overcoming a debilitating lower leg injury that derailed his first Australian Boomers camp as a legacy from his career at Boise State, Drmic has rediscovered his bounce with the 36ers. His confidence is growing, and it is no coincidence that his improved play has directly influenced Adelaide's success.
Humphries was on a trajectory that has had him destined for Boomers representation going back to when he was named to the all-tournament team at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships. His brief venture to Kentucky saw his opportunities and growth stall, and now that he is being given an opportunity and more playing time with the Sydney Kings, he is starting to remind people of his immense potential.
“The squad is selected in order to give us the best opportunity for success for the upcoming games,” said Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis in an official statement.
“Continuity is important in the team, especially with the limited preparation time in the FIBA qualification windows. This is why the Asia Cup campaign was so important- it was there that we had the opportunity to build on who we are as a team and having a core group of those players available for each of the windows is key.
“In addition, current NBL form is taken into consideration, as is past performance at international level, injury status and the unique challenges of the upcoming opponents. We are fortunate to have such a depth of talent in the NBL and as always, that means some good players miss out.”
Daniel Johnson has finally been rewarded for his impressive form for Adelaide by being selected, clearly meeting Lemanis' criteria. Alex Loughton too got a call up after resurrecting his career with Cairns this season, while Kevin Lisch returns following injury. A host of other familiar names that have appeared throughout the current campaign have also been named, but one name stands out for all the wrong reasons.
The inclusion of Clint Steindl is just plain puzzling.
The Perth Wildcat who replaced Matt Knight has not been able to make an impact across his 15 games to date, after returning to the NBL after spending previous seasons playing in Europe. Averaging just 2.2 points at 26% shooting is a shadow of what Steindl has previously been capable of, and certainly nowhere near the kind of form one would expect to be in consideration to represent Australia. His length and shooting capability can and has translated to international competition in the past. Yet based on current form and the other players chosen, his place could well have been offered up to other rising stars such as Adelaide's athletic wing Majok Deng whose recent form has impressed. Even the long-overlooked and out of favour AJ Ogilvy is currently more deserving than Steindl.
While it is unlikely Steindl will ever make the final cut, Lemanis has made it clear that he is prepared to make changes to the side to suit the opposition.
“It is important to note that under the new system, the team can change between the Philippines and Chinese Taipei games,” Lemanis said.
“This new FIBA format requires a commitment from the guys to the greater good of the national team and I’ve been humbled by the tremendous attitude and commitment every player has shown in that regard.”
“Representing Australia is always an honour and a privilege. For those who were in Adelaide and experienced our game live, they would have felt the passion, intensity and purity of play that international basketball brings.
“Melbourne is a basketball city with knowledgeable fans who will provide a tremendous atmosphere deserving of the Boomers. It’s always such a special experience and having the opportunity to share this with the fans in Melbourne is something I’m very much looking forward to.”
Australia won their first two games against Japan and Chinese Taipai, and can solidify its status as the best team in Asia in winning both games at home in Melbourne.
The Philippines will pose the greatest threat to Australia, after they too won their two qualifiers in November. The meeting will see the two top teams in Pool B face off – with the winner all but booking their ticket to the second round of qualifying.
Australia is currently ranked 10th in the world, whilst the Philippines and Chinese Taipei sit 31st and 57th respectively.
In order to qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Australia must finish in the top 7 teams in the Asian region at the conclusion of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers.
Tickets are available through Ticketek. NAME TEAM David ANDERSEN Melbourne United Todd BLANCHFIELD Sydney Kings Angus BRANDT Perth Wildcats Jason CADEE Sydney Kings Mitch CREEK Adelaide 36ers Anthony DRMIC Adelaide 36ers Adam GIBSON Brisbane Bullets Cameron GLIDDON Cairns Taipans Chris GOULDING Melbourne United Matt HODGSON Adelaide 36ers Isaac HUMPRHIES Sydney Kings Daniel JOHNSON Adelaide 36ers Nick KAY Illawarra Hawks Daniel KICKERT Brisbane Bullets Kevin LISCH Sydney Kings Alex LOUGTON Cairns Taipans Damian MARTIN Perth Wildcats Mitch MCCARRON Cairns Taipans Brad NEWLEY Sydney Kings Mitch NORTON Illawarra Hawks Nathan SOBEY Adelaide 36ers Clint STEINDL Perth Wildcats Jesse WAGSTAFF Perth Wildcats Lucas WALKER Perth Wildcats