Discover more from The Pick and Roll
Top 9 Australian basketball moments of 2022
There have been some great Aussie hoops moments in 2022, but which tops our rankings?
It’s been another massive year of Australian basketball. From the Australian Opals to the Tasmania JackJumpers, 2022 has had a little bit of everything. But what were the best moments of the year?
Counting down from 9-1, here are the top Aussie hoops basketball moments from this year.
9. NBL1 National Finals
The format could do with some work, but how great was it to see the top teams from around the country all in one place?
The NBL1 National Finals were a new initiative that gave us more elite basketball by teams that we don’t normally get to see go head tohead.
Sadly some of the top talent wasn’t available to play, with most NBL players missing out and the likes of Lauren Jackson and Alanna Smith also not taking the court. What we did get though, was some top-notch hoops from the elite players that remained.
The women’s final saw Marena Whittle and Ringwood’s star European import duo battle it out against Nat Burton, Stacey Barr and Leonie Fiebich. While the men’s had Lachie Barker and Dillon Stith go head to head with Marshall Nelson and Tom Jervis.
The highlights were incredible (@Dhal Fieg) and the energy was great. It’s only onwards and upwards for the NBL1 National Finals.
8. Aussie efforts at the FIBA U17 World Cup
They didn’t collect a medal, but the future still looks in good hands after seeing Australia go about their business in the two FIBA U17 World Cups.
The Aussie men went unbeaten through the group stage, knocking over Poland, Egypt and Argentina. They cruised through the Round of 16 with a big win over Lebanon, but sadly met their match in the quarters, losing to hosts and eventual silver medallists Spain by just two points.
7’1” beast Rocco Zikarsky ranked fifth in points and first in blocks per game despite playing just 20 minutes per outing. NBA Global Academy player Joshua Dent also showed his promise.
The women had a little more trouble in the group stage, but like the men cruised through the Round of 16 before running into a strong Spanish team. In their classification games, the Aussies again showed their strength, beating Germany and Hungary to finish the tournament in fifth.
Isla Juffermans was the star for Australia, dominating the paint at both ends, Jessica Petrie also showcased her excellent talent.
7. Ben’s return
Love him or hate him, it was good to Ben Simmons back on the court in 2022.
After over 12 months away from the court, the former top draft pick finally saw NBA minutes again.
He had been horribly treated by his coach and star teammate in Philadelphia, who both threw him under the bus despite their own continued shortcomings. A move to Brooklyn was supposed to give him new life, but when he didn’t take the court last season, the pressure grew.
Finally Ben came back this October, and although it took him some time, he found his rhythm and reminded everyone of the player he could be. Although he continues to battle small ongoing injuries, Simmons appears to be heading in the right direction, which is good news for the Nets and Australian basketball alike.
6. FIBA Hall of Fame
This year a great of Australian basketball joined the FIBA Hall of Fame.
Robyn Maher was one of those inducted as part of the 2022 class, which featured the likes of Lisa Leslie and legendary coach Geno Auriemma.
It was great recognition for one of the legends of the game, who competed in three Olympics and has been key in the great success of women’s basketball in Australia.
On top of her Olympic appearances, Maher represented the Opals at six FIBA World Cups, claiming bronze in 1988, and was a true star of the WNBL.
It’s not the first Hall of Fame Robyn Maher has joined, having previously been inducted into both the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame and the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. In being inducted by FIBA, she joins husband Tom who was also inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2021.
We tip our hats to the great one, Robyn Maher.
5. WNBL Grand Final series
If you ever wonder why basketball plays grand final series instead of one-off games, look no further than this year’s WNBL deciders.
Melbourne and Perth came into the big dance as the two best teams from the regular season. Both sides were stacked with talent, which made the result of game one a surprise to many.
The Lynx rolled into Victoria and absolutely torched the Boomers to take a 1-0 series lead. They had three players score at least 20 points, with Opal Darcee Garbin leading the charge with 25, including five makes from the land of plenty.
It meant that most thought things would get wrapped in the next game, with the series heading to Perth. However, Melbourne had other ideas, securing one of the most thrilling wins in WNBL playoff history after Marina Mabrey missed the last of three free throws to tie the game with less than a second remaining.
If that swing wasn’t already wild enough, the series completely flipped again in the final game, with the Boomers stunning everyone and cruising to a championship with an 18-point win.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a series on our own shores that has had that many swings and roundabouts, but it was truly incredible.
4. Dyson gets drafted
Bendigo’s own! The Aussie basketball factory just keeps churning them out, with yet another NBA top 10 draft pick, this time in the form of Dyson Daniels.
Throughout the leadup to the draft, the NBA G League Ignite product was predicted to fall anywhere from pick 5 all the way to the end of the first round. However, the Pelicans saw a star in the making and used the 8th selection to bring him on board.
It marked the fourth year in a row that an Australian was taken in the first round of the draft, further cementing our place in the global basketball pecking order.
Daniels has performed well since entering the league, earning the respect of many around the league. He has had some big games already in his young NBA career, highlighted by a near triple-double against Toronto (14p/9a/8r).
3. Commonwealth Games 3x3 medals
A gold, two silvers, and a bronze. That was the haul of medals Australian basketball walked away from Birmingham with.
Nobody was quite sure exactly what to expect from 3x3 at the Commonwealth Games for the first time. But our representatives put on a great show in the half-court, all walking away with a medal.
The wheelchair men led the charge, with incredible moment in the semis setting them up for their eventual gold medal win. Both the men and wheelchair women claimed silver, while Lauren Scherf, Alex Wilson, Marena Whittle and Lauren Mansfield took home bronze after a tight battle with New Zealand.
We’ve come to expect greatness when it comes to the Commonwealth Games because as a nation we tend to dominate the majority of events. But don’t let that undermine this achievement. A medal from every team that went over to England? Bravo!
2. The JackJumpers’ incredible run
Nobody expected much from the NBL’s newest franchise when they entered the league. In fact, if they got anywhere close to .500 it would have been considered a real success.
Fast forward to the end of the season and the JackJumpers scraped into the postseason with some help from the South East Melbourne Phoenix. In doing so, they ended the Perth Wildcats’ incredible run of postseason appearances, and booked themselves a semi-final series against the ladder-leading United.
Down 1-0 with their backs against the wall, Tasmania rallied and somehow claimed two back-to-back wins to reach the grand final series in their first season in the league.
They battled hard against the Sydney Kings, but sadly the fairy tale didn’t quite have the dream ending everyone had hoped for. But that was almost a moot point because a state had been inspired, a fan base had been fuelled and the NBL’s newest franchise was already a groundbreaking success.
1. LJ’s brilliance as the Opals take bronze
What more can be said about Lauren Jackson?
The GOAT had given more than enough to the game in this country, but decided for one more tilt, coming back into the playing fold. Her selection was a special enough moment to make it to this list by itself, however what followed was something out of a Disney movie.
Jackson played no more than 11 minutes in any single game of the group phase of this year’s World Cup. She did play a vital role in the quarters against Belgium but was hardly sighted in the Opals’ semi-final loss to China, playing a measly three minutes.
It meant that Jackson fans (aka the whole of Australia), had very little in the form of expectations when it came to the bronze medal game. In fact, just seeing her get on the floor probably would have been enough.
But the icon was given an opportunity and turned back the clock in front of the home crowd, scoring 30 points in 21 minutes and guiding the Opals to bronze.
It was a jawdropping performance that will no doubt be spoken about for years to come. Just when you thought her run was done, she’d drain another turnaround jumper on the low block.
There’s something about winning bronze as opposed to losing for silver, and the way LJ and the Opals claimed third place was clearly Australian basketball’s crowning moment in 2022.