Ryan Broekhoff had to work hard to secure his place on the Australian Boomers roster for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. All his hard work and effort paid off, and he was able to pull on the green and gold to represent his country on the world stage. Just two years later, he made the Olympic team and almost came away with Australia's first ever senior men's medal at a major event in finishing fourth behind Spain.
There is a strong bond that unites the Boomers squad, and a distinct sense of unfinished business. With a playing group that includes more players with NBA experience than ever before in Australian history, a first ever medal is on offer in China this coming August at the FIBA World Cup in China. Ben Simmons has now committed, Joe ingles is in. Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova are focused on gold. The list goes on.
After rising to prominence as one of the deadliest three-point marksmen in Europe, Broekhoff made his long-awaited NBA debut with the Dallas Mavericks this season. He impressed late in the season when given an opportunity, and despite his meteoric rise and the potential for history to be made by the Boomers come September, for Broekhoff, family comes first. He will not play for the Boomers in 2019, instead choosing to support his wife and newborn baby boy.
Broekhoff and his wife Katie met when at college, and were married in 2018 before his NBA commitments commenced, and are expecting their first child in June. On face value one could think that Broekhoff could juggle the birth of his first child and still play for his country. However it is not that simple.
In an interview with Roy Ward of The Age, Broekhoff explained as a couple they were never certain of being able to have a baby, especially given that Katie has an auto-immune disease that requires medication and makes a pregnancy difficult. It is therefore understandable that Broekhoff wants to be with his wife and baby during such an exciting, yet challenging time.
"Katie has been such a strong woman through this, even in a few emergency room visits, she has been strong and positive," Broekhoff outlined in speaking with Ward.
"She will handle whatever the baby throws at her."
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How to describe 2018. What an amazing year it was. I packed as much as I could into 2018. Got engaged and married to my beautiful amazing wife @katiebroekhoff. We found out that we are having a baby boy. We bought a dog, a home, a car and I got to realise a dream of mine of playing in the NBA. All of my family is happy, healthy and although I miss seeing them they are always in my heart. 2018 is done and dusted. Excited to see what 2019 has in store.
A post shared by Ryan Broekhoff (@rbroekhoff45) on Jan 1, 2019 at 9:29am PST
The Broekhoff's are basing themselves in the US with Katie's family for the birth, further complicating any thought that the star forward could juggle Boomers commitments and his family during such an important time.
"There are a few risk factors that come into play and for me to be on the other side of the world and anything come up - I just couldn't put myself or my family through that," Broekhoff said.
"It would be quite an extended period away from my newborn son and my wife at an important time and with the basketball schedule, I'd lose so much more time being away during the season so it's what I have to do for my family.
"I have to put them first. I'd love to be there with the guys and playing. It's one of the hardest but easiest decisions I've ever had to make."
Broekhoff explained that there was the potential that the baby would need some extra care in his first few months to make sure his immune system develops given Katie's condition and treatment.
"He might a little immune suppressed due to the medication Katie needs to stay healthy," Broekhoff said.
"Katie has to do everything to stay healthy and have the baby come out as healthy as he can be.
"Then the first few weeks after the baby comes will be a cautious period for both Katie and the baby as they re-adjust to life by themselves."
While choosing his family over the Boomers was relatively easy, telling head coach Andrej Lemanis of his decision was difficult given how hard he worked to get into the team in the first place.
"I called Andrej and got choked up because of how much the Boomers mean to me," Broekhoff said.
"But he was very supportive. Totally understood. It's a credit to the man he is in understanding people have lives outside of basketball and it's what I needed to do."
When Broekhoff learned that Ben Simmons had committed to the Boomers World Cup campaign, he explained he had mixed feelings.
"I saw that post and I got excited and a little disappointed at the same time," Broekhoff said.
"It's going to be awesome for all the other guys, Ben is going to do what he does and fit into the program and Andrej and the staff are going to work out who will get on the end of those Ben Simmons' passes."
While Broekhoff is the first 'big name' in line for the Boomers squad to officially make himself unavailable, thankfully for Australian basketball fans, the country's depth has never been greater and is in a great position to cover for Broekhoff's absence. We will not need to wait long for the preliminary squad to be named, with a 16-man line-up set to be announced by Basketball Australia next week.
Rest assured though, whoever takes Broekhoff's spot should not get comfortable, as he will be aiming for a return for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.