Shane Heal's All-Time Olympic Boomers

Four-time Olympian and 2004 Australian captain Shane Heal outlines his all-time Boomers Olympic team.

Four-time Olympian Shane Heal knows how tough it is to win a medal at the Olympics. The 6 foot sharpshooter played on two Australian teams that went agonisingly close to securing an elusive medal, finishing fourth in both 1996 and 2000 – and both times at the hands of arch-nemesis Lithuania.

Combining with the legendary Andrew Gaze as the Boomers’ high-scoring back court throughout the 1990s, Heal played an integral role in helping put Australia on the international basketball map.

Dropping eight threes on his way to a mesmerising 28 points against Team USA in an exhibition warmup game certainly caught the attention of the NBA. (That’s not forgetting his infamous clash with NBA star Charles Barkley in that game.) He would then take that form into the Olympic competition, draining 31 triples at 40.1% in averaging 17.8 points and 5.9 assists for the Boomers in Atlanta. His performances included a captivating 35-point explosion against Brazil and a 28-point effort against Puerto Rico.

Heal backed up with two more eye-catching Olympic campaigns, averaging 14.9 points and 3.8 assists in Sydney, before taking over the captaincy from the retired Gaze in Athens. The dynamic guard would pour in 16.7 points with 3.5 assists per game in 2004, a Games in which Australia would finish in ninth place. He would end his Olympic career with nine threes and 30 points, fittingly in a win against trans-Tasman rival New Zealand. With an average of 15.1 points and 4 assists per game across 25 Olympic outings, Heal will long be remembered as one of the Boomers’ all-time greats.

Never one to take a backward step or turn down an open three-point attempt, Heal’s renowned for his passion for representing his country and wearing his heart on his sleeve. We tasked Heal with the challenge of naming his all-time Olympic Boomers team.

Shane Heal’s All-Time Olympic Boomers

  • David ANDERSEN (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016)

  • Aron BAYNES (2012, 2016, 2020)

  • Andrew BOGUT (2004, 2008, 2016)

  • Mark BRADTKE (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000)

  • Ian DAVIES (1980, 1984)

  • Andrew GAZE (1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000)

  • Joe INGLES (2008, 2012, 2016, 2020)

  • Luc LONGLEY (1988, 1992, 2000)

  • Patty MILLS (2008, 2012, 2016, 2020)

  • Eddie PALUBINSKAS (1972, 1976)

  • Phil SMYTH (1980, 1984, 1988, 1992)

  • Andrew VLAHOV (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000)

  • Barry BARNES - Head coach (1996, 2000)

Although many would have Heal as one of a handful of names as an automatic selection, Heal opted not to include himself in the team, choosing to remain on the sideline as the team selector.

“So many great players have stepped out for the Boomers over the years,” explained Heal in selecting his all-time Boomers Olympic team. “I am pretty familiar with everyone from the 80s onward, but I had to do my research on those who played earlier. I’ve gone with who I think are the best.”

David Andersen (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016)

“David Andersen is a quadruple Olympian representing Australia at 2004 Athens through to the 2016 Rio Games. GQ’s best Olympic performance was in 2016 where he averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds per outing at his fourth games. Dave’s European career was absolutely incredible, with success at almost every country he played in. This experience certainly helped the Boomers and he carved out valuable roles around some of our stars. A true pro, this led to his longevity playing and performing for the Boomers and with his club teams.”

Andrew Bogut (2004, 2008, 2016)

“Andrew Bogut was always going to be an international star from his first Olympics in Athens 2004. I captained that team, and I couldn’t have be more impressed with his hunger to compete against the world’s best. He averaged 13.7 points and 9 rebounds as a teenager, and this was his most productive — statistically speaking — of his three Olympics across his career.

“Bogut’s ability to influence the Boomers shouldn’t be judged on his stats alone though. This is why I still believe he should play in next years Olympics so he can provide experience, leadership and the perfect role player as our current day Boomers try and land that first medal. Bogues has shown great mobility for his size internationally, is an elite defender and a world-class passer from inside and out. Andrew will go down as one of our all-time greats of Australian basketball.”

Aron Baynes (2012, 2016, 2020)

“Aron Baynes has represented Australia at the past two Olympics, and I’m sure he will play a major role again this year.

“Playing above his size on the international scene, he has been a major player on Boomers teams pushing for medals. His overall toughness and ability to fill a role and make players around him better is invaluable. He has developed his game to score inside, but now can hit threes both at an NBA and international level making him such a dangerous player. The longer his career has gone, the better Baynes has got. His NBA career has blossomed and I think his best Olympics will be this one where he will play a critical role trying to help the Boomers finally get that medal.”

Mark Bradtke (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000)

“I was fortunate to play alongside Mark Bradtke at the same four Olympic Games, from 1988 through to 2000. ‘Hoagie’ is one of the best big men to ever wear a Boomers jersey, often playing above his size against bigger international opponents. He also made players around him better and his contributions to helping his team win was always bigger than what showed on the stats sheet. Like Vlahov, Bradtke was another key player that competed with and beat some of the big countries on the Olympic stage. He was a terrific rebounder and defender, both inside and in the pick and roll. He was a player that guards, including myself, loved playing with. He is definitely one our greatest ever big men to wear the green and gold.

Ian Davies (1980, 1984)

“We have to go back to the 1980 and 1984 Olympics to relive what Ian Davies did at the Olympics. Ian had some incredible range from deep and was an inspiration to me as a young fella — he could make a shot from anywhere once he crossed the half court such was his range. He averaged an incredible 29 points in Moscow, and 16 points per game in Los Angeles to go down as one of the best international scorers we have seen in a Boomers uniform.

“With great size for a player that could hit the three-point shot, he could also shoot the ball from behind his head which made it almost impossible to block. He had a shooter’s mentality and never saw a shot he didn’t like — and in most cases made them!”

Joe Ingles (2008, 2012, 2016, 2020)

“Joe Ingles’ Olympic stats over three campaigns don’t jump off the page, but that’s not where his value is. Joe has proven to be one of the best all-round Boomers ever. With his ability to defend multiple positions, to create for team mates and generally do the things that help his team win, it has made him one of my favourite players to watch.

Joe’s size and length make him the perfect 3-man internationally. His career has blossomed in the NBA and he has proven to everyone that he is a world class wing. One of the leaders for the Boomers, his passion to wear the green and gold has been impressive. Joe’s value for the Boomers is incredibly high and I see him handing down lessons to new team mates about what it means to be a Boomer. The kid from Happy Valley has proven to be one of our country’s best ever international players and a fun one to watch too.

Andrew Gaze (1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000)

“My roommate for three Olympics, Andrew Gaze is without doubt our greatest ever Boomer. Across five Olympic tournaments he averaged 19.7 points per game, including over 20 points per game at an incredible four times (one was 19.9ppg but I say that counts too!). Drewy made critical shot after critical shot, and proved to be one of the all-time best scorers in Olympic history.

“Such was his shooting prowess, he has also made the second most three’s in Olympic history, and I’m sure there are many more records too that he has collected along the way. When Drewy carried the Aussie flag into the Olympic stadium at Sydney 2000, it was a just reward for my mate who was an inspirational leader with no one more passionate about representing Australia. He also happened to be the most undisciplined flag bearer ever … and Australia could not have been more proud!

“Drewy didn’t have the speed or athleticism of NBA players, but his basketball IQ and ability to read a game and find ways to score was remarkable. His NBL numbers will never be repeated and are Bradman-like, while his performances in the green and gold add up to him being our best ever.”

Luc Longley (1988, 1992, 2000)

“Australia’s first NBA player, Luc Longley played at three Olympics. His absence through injury in 1996 was the difference in my view of us beating Sabonis and Lithuania for a breakthrough first ever medal for the Boomers. Ultimately, we fell short by just a few points for the bronze medal.

“The big fella is one of the best passers we have ever seen for his position in the green and gold. Luc really paved the way internationally — and particularly in the NBA — for all Australian players to follow. There became a belief that playing in the NBA was achievable for us Aussies. I also think Luc’s role as an assistant coach for the Boomers during their most recent campaigns has proven to be a huge success. His experience and respect among the players certainly helped create the right leadership, while his poise in difficult situations added an extra layer for the team.

“While it was not at the Olympics, perhaps my favourite all-time Luc moment was his heroics in the Philippines where saved Chris Goulding who was being battered by a herd of people. The big fella had no hesitation in going into battle and saving his team mate. His honesty when returning from this controversial game also gave Australia an insight into him as a person. Luc is a legend, a trailblazer and one of our greatest ever.”

Patty Mills (2008, 2012, 2016, 2020)

“Patty Mills has cemented himself as one of our country’s greatest ever scorers. The triple Olympian averaged 21 points per game across the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. He has one of the prettiest jump shots you will see and possesses a unique knack of finding ways to score and hit big shots.

“Patty has been Australia’s best scorer of modern times and tough international defenses have not been able to contain him. He is a proud Aussie with a true passion to represent the Boomers at every chance and with his experience from a stellar NBA career. What he gives back to the community is almost unheard of from a professional athlete. He is one of our greatest ever players, and deserves to carry the flag in Tokyo, as a proud and active indigenous Australian role mode - much in the same mould as Cathy Freeman before him.”

Eddie Palubinskas (1972, 1976)

“Eddie Palubinskas is a name the younger fans won’t know much of, and to be honest I didn’t see him actually play, but had certainly heard plenty about him. Eddie was a scoring freak from the shooting guard position. In 1972 he averaged an outstanding 21 points before he lifted to another level in exploding for an incredible 31 points per game in 1976. That is really an amazing effort and that sort of scoring production has placed him as one of our all-time greats. I would have loved to see him play in the NBL and wonder what sort of scoring records he would have set if he did.”

Phil Smyth (1980, 1984, 1988, 1992)

“Phil Smyth was known as the ‘General’ because of his ability to be able to run a team and control the tempo. He represented the Boomers at four Olympics and was a star in the 80s in particular. A tremendous defender with quick hands, he was also a deadly shooter from the perimeter. While he didn’t have big stats in points or assists, Phil made the teams he played on better and is one of our best ever true point guards.”

Andrew Vlahov (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000)

“Like many others in my all-time Boomers team, Andrew Vlahov played at four consecutive Olympic Games, from 1988 through to 2000. ‘Hoff’ was one of the toughest players I had the pleasure to call a team mate. He was a winner and no one played a role better. Opposition players feared his defence, and his teammates appreciated his ability to contribute in every facet of the game.

“Whilst toughness was an obvious strength, so was intelligence. He was a real student of the game and someone I felt so confident playing with. He wasn’t a huge scorer internationally, but his leadership, toughness, IQ and work ethic made him an elite Boomer that helped give his teams a chance to compete for medals against more high profile international opponents.”

Barry Barnes - Head coach (1996, 2000)

“Baz is one of the country’s most successful Boomers coaches, leading Australia to two straight fourth place finishes in 1996 and 2000 - going so close to earning that first ever medal. Barry had a huge influence on my basketball career personally, and was a mentor going back to our days at the Nunawading Spectres.

“He really cared for his players and was so passionate in all levels of basketball, but he particularly loved and excelled in coaching Australia as both a head coach and assistant. I believe his time coaching the Boomers was cut short prematurely and should have continued onto 2004 — in my opinion he earned that right. Yet regardless, Baz will go down as one of our most successful coaches of all time.”

Honourable mentions

“There are always those who are unlucky to miss out on being selected to a Boomers team, and my all-time Olympics team is no exception.

“Mathew Dellavadova (2012, 2016, 2020) is one of my favourite Boomers. His toughness and passion is a true representation of what it takes to be a Boomer. Having played at two Olympics (and his third this year), he is one of the best creators we have seen. He will be a key leader for the Boomers and will play the perfect role with Dante Exum.

“Delly has defended some of the worlds most talented offensive players in the NBA and Olympics and done it with success. He is our best defensive guard to play for Australia and I have nothing but admiration and respect for the way he goes about it. I feel guilty leaving him out, and it’s just the longevity of Smyth and his four Olympic campaigns that gives him the nod over him. Delly gives motivation for all kids that don’t get drafted and miss out on Boomers teams. He just worked harder and forced his way into teams and this attitude makes him an inspirational role model for young kids."

“Larry Sengstock (1980, 1984, 1988, 1992) also played at four Olympics and was one of the best leaders I ever played under. Larry was undersized for his position internationally, but always found a way to play a critical role. He was my captain at the Bullets and the Boomers for my first Olympics, and I have nothing but respect for him as a bloke and a player.”