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The Road to Rio: Boomers stars commit to qualifiers against New Zealand
Australian Boomers head coach Andrej Lemanis returned from his trip to the US and Europe this past week with a grin on his face. And so he should. He received commitments from the majority of Australia's best players playing in the NBA and Europe's top leagues that they would make themselves available to take on New Zealand in the FIBA Oceania Olympic qualifiers in mid-August.
In a potential boon for Australian basketball fans, the Boomers could feature as many as six current NBA players, including Andrew Bogut (Golden State) who has not been seen in a Boomers jersey since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing with injury restricting his availability.
“Everyone has indicated — touch wood — they’ll be available,” Lemanis stated upon his return. “Of course, there’s an asterisk with that — provided they don’t get injured.”
That availability not only extends to Bogut, but also a number of other Australian NBA stars including San Antonio's 2014 NBA Champions Patty Mills and Aron Baynes, Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland), rising star Dante Exum (Utah) and Cameron Bairstow (Chicago). Long-time Boomer Joe Ingles (Utah) had earlier indicated his desire to take a break after having not missed a national team fixture since entrenching himself in the team. View image | gettyimages.com With a number of Australian's also excelling in Europe, the Boomers are likely to boast a talented and experienced core group when they take to the court against New Zealand in August. View image | gettyimages.com Turkish League All-Star Ryan Broekhoff has elevated his game to new levels with Besiktas Itegral Forex Istanbul, Brad Newley has been sensational in leading Spanish side Herbalife Gran Canaria to just one step away from the Eurocup final, and David Andersen has recently been winding back the clock with some vintage performances for ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne in France. When you consider that Chris Goulding at CAI Zaragoza and Nathan Jawai at MoraBanc Andorra who both play in the Spanish ACB may also be available, Australia
Lemanis is likely to name a preliminary squad that will boast a tantalizing blend of the current crop of stars with those of the future. McDonald's All-American Ben Simmons who is bound for Louisiana State is likely to be included, as could a host of current collegiate stars led by All-Big Sky First Team forward Venky Jois (Eastern Washington). While there has not yet been any confirmation, many would also like to see the intriguing Thon Maker also invited.
One thing is for certain, pending injury, Australia could well assemble one of the most talented Boomers team ever to take on New Zealand in August, with the series importance underlined by the prospect of booking a ticket to Rio 2016.