2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers: Will Weaver backs new-look Boomers squad as Brisbane series nears
The Boomers will kick off their 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifying campaign against New Zealand on 20 February. They will then face Hong Kong three days later, in Australia's last qualifier before November. Speaking from Brisbane's Nissan Arena, where both fixtures are to be held, interim head coach Will Weaver was on hand to answer some questions.
Weaver is also at the helm of the NBL's minor premiers - the Sydney Kings. The Kings' NBL finals campaign begins on the 29th of February, but Weaver's dedication to the national team is unwavering. When asked whether this Asia Cup qualifying series would have any impact on his NBL commitments, he had a swift reply.
“[It's] never an issue to be part of the Boomers.”
New faces among seasoned veterans
The Boomers have named six debutants for the two upcoming qualifiers. Angus Glover, Sam Froling and Dan Grida of the Illawarra Hawks will debut alongside South East Melbourne Phoenix duo Dane Pineau and Kyle Adnam, in addition to rising junior Josh Giddey. The roster also features veterans such as Nathan Sobey and Cam Gliddon, who were both members of the 2019 FIBA World Cup squad.
Reflecting on the first day of training camp in Brisbane, Will Weaver had this to share.
"Any time you’re in a Boomers environment, it’s looking good. The level of connectedness, communication and the enjoyment these guys get out of reuniting in this environment [is good to see]. Six of our guys have the chance to be on the senior team for the first time. It’s special for everybody in here, and that’s largely why we all look forward to it the way that we do.”
When questioned about continuity in Australian basketball, Weaver lauded the junior pathways that many present-day Boomers have graduated from.
“I think that’s a real strength of Australian basketballers in general. [It’s] part of what my enjoyment is, coming to coach here, at the onset. I think the newcomers that we have, have been a part of the pathways of Basketball Australia for a long time,” he said.
The Sydney head coach also praised the veteran presence on the team, for playing a role in integrating these fresh faces. “The older guys, I think, have done an exceptional job of understanding that it’s part of their role to help bring those guys along. There’s lots of good talk in huddles and at the free throw line.”
In selecting six new faces, the Boomers undoubtedly have one eye on the future. Weaver echoed this philosophy, explaining that opportunities like these will build experience. “We have an identity as a program and as a country. That makes it easy to keep the standard where it is and recognise that we fit into a broader qualification that leads to major tournaments down the lines. But, this is also the beginning of the next wave of qualifications. You mentioned we had six guys unavailable due to injury out of our 24. But, the number of people that put their hands up and the depth of talent in the country means that: whether they’ve played in this environment before or not, we’re able to grow something that eventually will have the kind of experience that our Olympic team will later on this year.”
On Brett Brown and succession planning
When questioned about Brett Brown's role in the preparation for the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, Weaver suggested that the Philadelphia 76ers coach has been largely hands off. Brown is understandably occupied with NBA commitments, as he aims to steer the Sixers towards playoff success.
“Brett recognises that this is a two-game series in five days, and he is far from overbearing in that setting. Having worked with Brett for a number of years, and [with] all of us having been a part of his broader program since London, the continuity that we have and the togetherness we have in the broader program is something that I think is second to none worldwide,” Weaver said.
Weaver remained coy when asked what the future holds beyond the Tokyo Olympics. In a November 2019 interview, Brown said he had “not thought one second about what goes on after Tokyo”. If Brown's appointment is ultimately a short-term one, Weaver could be a contender for the Boomers' head coaching role. However, the Sydney Kings coach firmly indicated that his mind is currently on the job at hand.
“There’s no long-term anything in coaching. I’m grateful to be a part of Australian basketball, and lucky to have the chance to raise my family in Australia, and to be part of an organisation like the Sydney Kings. There is nothing that you look forward to more than being involved with the Boomers, every chance you have. But, in terms of looking ahead, we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do at practice tomorrow so we can play well against New Zealand.”
If the Kings' minor premiership in 2019/20 is anything to go by, Weaver is the man to get the Boomers firing on all cylinders in Brisbane.
Boomers squad for February Asia Cup qualifiers
NAMECLUBKyle AdnamSouth East Melbourne PhoenixTodd BlanchfieldIllawarra HawksJason CadeeBrisbane BulletsCameron GliddonBrisbane BulletsSunday DechIllawarra HawksSam FrolingIllawarra HawksJosh GiddeyNBA Global AcademyAngus GloverIllawarra HawksDaniel GridaIllawarra HawksMatt HodgsonBrisbane BulletsDane PineauSouth East Melbourne PhoenixNathan SobeyBrisbane Bullets