“There’s lots of other good guys out there today too!”
It's day one of the Boomers' training camp at the Melbourne Sports & Aquatic Centre (MSAC) in Albert Park, Victoria. After being peppered with seemingly endless Ben Simmons questions, Boomers assistant coach Luc Longley felt the need to remind attending media, that even without the Philadelphia star, the Australian men's team remain loaded with talent, ahead of the FIBA World Cup in China.
Among household NBA names like Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles and Andrew Bogut, one unheralded member of the 18-man squad demanded Longley's attention during the group’s first practice.
“Nick Kay is someone who was dominant at practice,” Longley affirmed without hesitation.
“Just his hustle, he was getting on the offensive glass, playing D, diving on the floor, he’s Nick Kay that you see every week in the NBL. This is a different lot of cattle out here, and Nick did really well.”
Kay is in the midst of the best stretch in his career, coming off All-NBL first team selection with the champion Perth Wildcats, before spending the offseason playing in the New Zealand NBL with the Wellington Saints, adding another championship and a league MVP award to his swelling trophy cabinet.
In Longley's opinion, Kay’s standout performance in a squad brimming with NBA talent, was a clear indication of the NBL's growth.
“Nick Kay is a great example of someone that really performs at NBL level, and to see that translate into this level as well as it did today speaks volumes of the NBL.”
Kay has been a regular fixture in the Boomers team throughout World Cup qualification, and familiarity with the Boomers system was a key factor in his strong first up showing. During the Asian Qualifiers, the 6'9 forward averaged 8.4 points on 44.9% shooting, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists over 18.4 minutes.
“I think being in the Boomers environment has been a big part of Nick Kay’s development,” Longley admitted.
“Also, he knows the stuff, he knows what he’s doing, he’s confident and that’s what we’ve tried to build in the group in continuity and he’s a beneficiary of that amongst other guys.”
The importance of having familiar faces around the group is vital, with limited preparation time available before the World Cup opener against Canada on 1 September.
“It’s a really important balance. Obviously, a strength of our Boomers team has been continuity, and guys have known the stuff for a long time so having these guys, a lot of them through qualifying makes a big difference. We will benefit from that continuity.”
At the conclusion of the six-day training camp, the Boomers squad will be cut from 18 to 12, with the battle for final spots in the big man rotation sure to provide more than a few headaches at the selection table.
“I think we should start a 6’7” and over league and just play them all, there’s so many good guys,” Longley said with a laugh.
“There is a bit of a jam at the power forward position, but some of those guys are very versatile and I think that’s one thing that we’ll be as a team come selection time.”
— The Pick and Roll (@PickandRollAU) August 3, 2019
Simmons' presence at the session may have been the understated headline at MSAC on Saturday afternoon for both media and the throng of fans waiting outside the building. Even without Simmons, the goal that awaits in China is clear, as far as Longley is concerned.
“Everyone understands how long we’ve been striving for a medal. All the guys in the group, the young guys, the old guys. I personally have been to four Olympics and come fourth three of those times. The clear goal for us is a medal - we have the horses to do it.
“The guys know we are here and are about a medal.”
For Kay, all he can do is continue to impress, with a shot at the Boomers' first medal at a major tournament in his sights.