Takeaways from the Australian Boomers' final FIBA World Cup qualifiers
The Australian Boomers wrapped up a dominant World Cup qualifying campaign with two comfortable wins at home. What could those games tell us about the tournament proper and beyond?
The Boomers had already sealed their spot at this year’s FIBA World Cup heading into the final qualifying window, but that didn’t stop them from sprinting past the finish line. A pair of huge wins at Victoria’s State Basketball Centre —first by 42 points over Bahrain and then by 45 points against Kazakhstan— wrapped up a dominant qualifying campaign with an 11-1 record, with the only blemish a forfeiture against Iran caused by safety concerns around travelling to the away fixture.
It would be easy to gloss over those final two results as inconsequential given the circumstances — after all, neither Kazakhstan nor Bahrain qualified for the World Cup, and the vast majority of Australia’s squad for the tournament proper will come from players that weren’t present during these games or any other qualifying windows. The Boomers used 37 different players across their 12 games, drawn mostly from the NBL and Asian leagues. Even head coach Brian Goorjian was absent for much of the campaign, with Melbourne United’s Dean Vickerman becoming the fourth coach to lead the team in their last two games.
Despite all of that, there was still plenty to unpack. The latest group from those 37 players all stepped up to the plate, with contributions coming from across the board. Two more debutants joined the Boomers ranks, with Mason Peatling and Nick Marshall playing their first senior games in the green and gold, while Dan Grida returned from a two-year absence and impressed with some energetic and impactful spurts off the bench. 18 year old Alex Toohey enjoyed another stint with the national team and was again composed, with fellow Centre of Excellence prodigies Rocco Zikarsky, Alex Condon and Ben Henshall getting a taste of the action as training players.
At the other end of the spectrum, veterans Mitch Norton and Kyle Adnam provided a steady hand when running the point, while Rhys Vague continued his stellar international season with two more assured performances. Tucked away from the Australian basketball public as he plies his trade in Japan, Vague was a key player in the Boomers’ Asia Cup triumph and has been equally important in qualifying. After tallying 13 points with five triples against Bahrain and racking up seven points, four rebounds and three assists against Kazakhstan, all while doing plenty of little things right on both ends of the floor, he is surely firmly on the radar of NBL teams needing a veteran boost.
While almost all of the players involved will not take part in the World Cup itself, the games were an opportunity to strut their stuff for domestic teams or push their case for future international selections. Add in the chance to showcase and refine the Boomers brand, which will be crucial in the team’s push for a second straight medal in major men’s competitions, and there was a lot to like in the weekend’s fixtures.
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