Author Topic: § Oceania & Australia Basketball News, Stories & Events • Noticias & Eventos del Baloncesto en Oceanía y Australia  (Read 148213 times)


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Oceania & Australia Basketball News & Events • Noticias & Eventos del Baloncesto Australiano

Time to team up

We've been talking about the Olympics for so long now that it felt like they might never arrive.

But when teams start announcing their final 12s, the sense of imminence grows markedly and that's exactly what happened with Oceania's major countries this week.

On Friday afternoon the Australian Boomers and Opals arrived at the brand new State Basketball Centre in Melbourne to reveal their final rosters to the waiting media.

In a stylish statement to show they are truly London bound they rolled up to the doors in a red double-decker bus.

Across the Tasman Sea it was a very different affair, with the New Zealand Tall Blacks team for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament named with a minimum of fanfare.

The truth is that in a country with only 10 full-time professional basketball players, once a shocking run of injury and unavailability had taken its toll, the squad pretty much picked itself.

Kirk Penney and Thomas Abercrombie's withdrawal meant the country's Olympic qualification chances all but evaporated.

But the hope of seeing the array of young talent that gives this country a bright future was still a reason to get excited.

Then BJ Anthony was ruled out with injury, Steve Adams and Isaac Fotu decided to focus on their studies ahead of their maiden college seasons, and Corey Webster is still serving a suspension for a drug-related violation.

All of a sudden all that was left was star power forward Mika Vukona, a couple of veterans, some emerging players like centres Alex Pledger and Rob Loe, and a just-turned 17-year-old schoolboy named Tai who missed a training session to attend his school formal!

To find out more about that read this great story by Marc Hinton from Farfax.

You can never write off the plucky New Zealanders and their ingenius coach Nenad Vucinic, but progress to the quarter-finals would be an achievement worthy of high praise.

Vucinic summed it up like this: "We made miracles in the past, and this would be a big miracle to make it. Maybe even the biggest achievement ever. But it's still possible, so why not try?"

On the positive side, the extra responsibility for Vukona, Pledger, Loe, Everard Bartlett and Lindsay Tait will be invaluable come the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.

Back in the land of Oz and the Boomers team didn't have any real surprises, with the only conjecture being settled when swingman Peter Crawford got the nod ahead of point guard Damian Martin.

While there were few question marks over the make-up of the team, how it will perform is still very much in the air.

The Aussies have enough talent to challenge the mid-level teams, but it's hard to see them scaring the USA, Spain, France and Argentinas of this world.

To scrape into the top eight the coaching staff need to utilise their players' strengths well, and that's what I'll have a quick look at.

Aleks Maric: The big fella from Sydney has a big job filling Andrew Bogut's shoes. In Turkey and last year against New Zealand coach Brett Brown used Maric as a low-post target.

That's not his forte, however, and Aussie fans will be hoping Brown has watched more tape this time around and will make use of his big frame and sure hands in the pick-and-roll situation.

In short bursts diving to the basket for dump offs or offensive boards Maric is a world-class player. Isolated in the low post he is a black hole.

Adam Gibson: The Tasmanian is probably one selection fans have seriously questioned, despite his steady form for country and big year for his club, the Gold Coast Blaze.

Consider this though, three years ago he had 22 points and seven assists against a full-strength Brazil. Last year he had eight points on 3-of-4 shooting and three assists against China, and then 13 points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals against Great Britain.

With all three in the Boomers' group, Gibson was never going to miss selection.

The key now is to give Gibbo a task every time he is on the floor. He isn't good enough to ad-lib at international level, but given a job defensively and a straight-forward role offensively he is more than capable.

David Andersen: For the first time in 2010 Andersen showed the toughness required at international level. Perhaps his stint in the NBA hardened him up a bit?

At 32, Andersen is going to be a key player offensively for a team short of scorers.

The 2.12m sharp-shooter's success in European club ball has come from being used in post-ups against smaller power forwards and spreading the floor from deep against bigger centres.

Coach Brown needs to find the right match-ups for Andersen to exploit, and other post-up or driving options who can force opposition centres to collapse and leave Andersen open.

Crawford: PC nailed over 40% of his three-pointers for North Queensland club Townsville this year in the best season of his career.

He then hit 5-of-12 from long range in Australia's first game against China earlier this month, and given the Boomers have shot 30% from behind the arc the past two years that was enough to secure selection.

Despite being 32, Crawford is almost a rookie at FIBA level, and it is crucial he gets looks he is comfortable with.

In Brown's system there is a lot of standing and waiting for jumpers, but that isn't where Crawford is at his best. He needs to catch the ball on the move, where his stroke and footwork approach perfection.

So the teams are set, but the reality is expectations are low in Oceania this year, with a win or two over high-quality opponents enough to satisfy most fans on both sides of the Tasman.

Tournament basketball is a funny thing, however, and the right performance on the right day can get you far.

Australian Boomers: David Andersen (2.12m, forward/centre), David Barlow (2.05m, forward), Aron Baynes (2.07m, forward/centre), Peter Crawford (1.93m, guard/forward), Matthew Dellavedova (1.90m, guard), Adam Gibson (1.88m, guard), Joe Ingles (2.03m, guard/forward), Aleks Maric (2.10m, centre), Patty Mills (1.83m, guard), Brad Newley (1.99m, guard/forward), Matt Nielsen (2.09m, power forward), Mark Worthington (2.02m, forward).

New Zealand Tall Blacks: Hayden Allen (1.92m, shooting guard), Josh Bloxham (1.83m, point guard), Everard Bartlett (1.95m, guard), Casey Frank (2.03m, power forward), Leon Henry (2.00m, small forward), Jarrod Kenny (1.88m, guard), Robert Loe (2.10m, forward/centre), Alex Pledger (2.16m, centre), Lindsay Tait (1.90m, point guard), Jeremiah Trueman (2.05m, power forward), Mika Vukona (1.98m, forward), Tai Webster (1.90m, guard).

Paulo Kennedy from FIBA

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Oceania & Australia Basketball News & Events • Noticias & Eventos del Baloncesto Australiano

Australian U17 talent Exum has makings of a star

Australia have a budding superstar in the making who will be showcasing his skills at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship. He goes by the name of Dante Exum and actually has a connection to both Andrew Gaze and Michael Jordan.

Exum is an athletic 6ft 4in (1.92m) guard who can do a number of things to help his team win.

The East Melbourne native is the son of former Australian NBL league star Cecil Exum, who actually played with Jordan at the University of North Carolina before going on to have a long career in Australia.

The young talent is also linked to former Australia great Gaze after being part of the Australian Boomers' senior programme last summer as a 15-year-old – eclipsing the mark of Gaze, who was 16 when he first made it on the national men's team.

Exum impressed Boomers boss Brett Brown, who wanted to see how the youngster would hold his own.

“He is highly skilled and he will represent Australia one day,” Brown said last summer.

“It certainly is positive for the program because we feel we have uncovered someone to develop and pay attention to. And he is a long, athletic wing with a high degree of skill. It’s been a real plus for him and for us.”

It’s not that Exum is a stranger to Brown though as he coached his father Cecil.

Still, the Australian coach couldn’t help but notice Exum’s fine approach to the game, saying: “He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know because he is only 15 and comes into the gym without any backing down.”

Exum’s Boomers roommate, former Loyola Marymount playmaker Damian Martin, said: “Another two, three, four years down the track and he’s going to be a solid player amongst this mix. He’s got all the talent in the world already.”

Exum is considered a great kid who is highly coachable and has plenty of charm. He is already a good shooter and his strong work ethic could make him a great one. He also plays superb defense and passes the ball more than most scorers.

Currently on scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), he is learning a number of different playing styles and systems while playing in the Australian second division (ABA) against adults.

All that will help him this summer when he arrives in Lithuania for the FIBA U17 World Championship.

"Dante is a truly exciting, athletic talent with a big future in the game. We’ll be hoping he has a great Worlds," Australia’s U17 coach Guy Molloy told Eye on the Future.

The coach believes Exum’s time with the Boomers last summer will help his confidence.

"I’m sure that was more a glimpse of the future for both Dante and Brett (Brown), but those types of opportunities can be rare and special for a player so young," he explained.

Exum also was a leader for Australia in qualifying for the U17 Worlds averaging 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the 2011 FIBA Oceania U16 Championship.

When asked what Exum’s ceiling could be, Molloy said: “Without wanting to place pressure on him, Dante could be anything.”

The player himself is ready to exceed the great success his father had in the game.

“I hope to do even better than him,” Exum said at the Boomers camp last summer.

Considering that Cecil Exum has already played with a legend like Michael Jordan, Dante Exum has set the bar pretty high.

David Hein from FIBA

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Oceania & Australia Basketball News & Events • Noticias & Eventos del Baloncesto Australiano

Leading from the top

In response to last week’s column ‘A big week Downunder’, a reader called @MoreHoops asked what Basketball Australia (BA) needs from their new CEO.

Great question, one that isn’t easy to answer.

To start I’ll look at some of what I think are BA’s strengths and weaknesses and I suspect my response will emerge from that.

Numbers - When it comes to strengths, it is mentioned over and over again that around one million Australians play basketball. It places it up there with netball and soccer as the most played team sports, and is the most played sport by people under 25.

Guys and girls – when the government and corporate dollar is so keenly contested in tight economic times, having a sport that is so widely played by men and women, boys and girls, and people with a disability is a huge boost. The more groups in the community you serve, the more likely an MP is going to listen.

We’re pretty good – Australia isn’t a basketball powerhouse, but with our junior teams almost always in the top six, our women’s team considered a failure if they don’t medal, our men competitive with most opponents, and our wheelchair teams a constant title threat, BA can make strong claims to governing one of Australia’s elite performing sports.

Our national leagues – the NBL in particular has seen hard times, and has been mocked by many in this country. But the reality is both the WNBL and NBL have world-class players and play an entertaining style. The average attendance at an NBL game is 4,200-4,300 people, and both teams have a decent presence on free-to-air television.

What national teams – In a country where many national sporting teams are national treasures, the Opals and particularly Boomers are barely known anymore. A big issue is the difficulty in getting quality opponents to Australia to showcase the international game, and this winter’s series against Brazil and Greece will be a real litmus test on whether BA can sell its elite teams.

What participants – While it is true basketball has a massive participation base, it seems BA has no way of really utilising is for commercial gain. Some state associations won’t give BA their databases and some local associations won’t give their databases to their state associations!

What youngsters – Too many of the country’s best young male players head to the USA to play college basketball. While a handful of players excel, a number of players seem to get lost in the system.

Where are the pro teams – The NBL has just nine professional teams, and that is a large reason why so many young players end up going to college. In 1996 there were 112 Australians in the league, this year there are 69 despite the fact participation has increased markedly in that time.

The wrap
So what does all that mean? Well obviously a good CEO will capitalise on as many strengths as possible and finds solutions to weaknesses.

But for me it all starts at one point, and that is getting all the sport’s governing associations on the same page.

For the professional side of the game to thrive, clubs need to tap into the local associations. For participation rates to grow rather than stay steady, local associations need the pro game to be attracting kids’ attention.

To attract big-time corporate support BA needs to be able to show they have pro leagues that both attract mainstream media attention and have a pipeline to grassroots participants.

If Basketball Australia doesn’t have access to databases of those who play the sport, it will never reach its potential.

It was once mentioned to me that BA has an excellent insurance set-up that both state and local associations access. If this is true then perhaps it is time to bring out the stick.

Any governing body who won’t join a national database could have their access to this insurance limited or cut out altogether.

After all, if you don’t want to contribute to the national strength of the game, why should you benefit from it?

There has to be some carrot as well. Local associations have grown ambivalent to the plight of professional clubs. They have seen them come and go and got used to going about their business regardless.

It is time to make a successful NBL club good news for the grassroots. Simple things like commission for local associations who sell NBL and/or WNBL memberships, game tickets and merchandise.

Strong links between professional players and associations, in a client management type set-up, is another way of building a stronger relationship.

Basketball can only compete in Australia’s sporting landscape if all its limbs are working together. The problem is it hasn’t really been done before, nor has there been strong leadership to attempt to make it happen. As a result the mention of it is met with suspicious eyes.

That is the number one task I would set out for the new CEO.

Effectively tap into the grassroots and the corporates will come, the professional clubs will grow stronger and the grassroots will benefit from the increased profile.

There is still plenty of work to be done once that is achieved, but work done without it is very unlikely to bear fruit.

If it were an easy task it would have been done before. But without it basketball will never challenge cricket, Australian Rules football and the rugby codes for public interest and corporate investment.

Paulo Kennedy from FIBA

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DC to power Great Britain ?

You might remember a few weeks back I wrote about the marquee match-up between the New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats.

Well it was on again last Sunday in Perth, and these teams are so good to watch I took the 4,000-odd kilometre flight across the Nullarbor to see it.

The teams put on another classic, the packed house was thrilled until the end, and Great Britain fans should be too.

A minute into the third quarter with New Zealand trailing by 12 points, I remarked to my counterpart on the press bench that their shooting guard, Daryl Corletto, had taken just one shot.

Moments later Breakers import point guard Cedric Jackson sliced to the basket in trademark style, finding Corletto in the corner who coolly fired off a triple. Splash.

Moments later Jackson escaped in transition off a Perth miss and found his running mate on the wing. Bingo!

The man they call DC was feeling good so he took it inside next possession but missed the mark.

CJ Bruton grabbed the O-board and before you knew it, Corletto was firing his renowned line-ball triple. Bottoms! And Wildcat star import Kevin Lisch mistimed his jump to give DC the ‘and one’.

Free-throw made and it is a two-point game. The crowd at The Jungle - as the Wildcats faithful call their home court - is silent.

Perth small forward Cam Tovey nails a triple to bring them back to life. Bruton responds with a long bomb as he has so many times, but Wildcat captain Shawn Redhage hits one of his own and the place is rocking.

Perth are five in front once again, but Corletto slides into the basket against heavy defence to finish his run and get the Breakers back within a shot.

Twelve points in 3:25 and DC has single-handedly kept his team in the game.

“It was one of those games,” Corletto said.

“The first half I wasn’t getting open, other guys were doing their things … so I just had to stand in the corner and wait my turn.

“The third quarter I got a couple of open threes and I knocked them down.”

That’s what Corletto, 30, has been doing for much of his career, popping up when his team needs him to hit clutch triples or his patented soft floater.

From 2006-2009 he was the ‘microwave’ off the bench for the Melbourne Tigers as they made four straight grand finals and claimed two titles.

This season he moved to New Zealand and is again making shots at all the right moments as the Breakers close in on their second-straight regular-season crown.

What does this have to do with Great Britain?

“Mum and dad were both born over there so I’ve got a British passport,” Corletto revealed.

Does he see himself as a realistic chance of playing at the Olympics?

“They’ve got their camp in April and we’ll still be in the (NBL) Finals so it’s going to be tough. They’ve picked a squad of 22 so we’ll just wait and see.”

Corletto would have already suited up for the ‘Mother Country’ if it weren’t for the Tigers demanding he tour Ireland and China with them instead.

“The funny thing is we actually played against them last year with Melbourne,” he said.

“I got to meet all the coaches and have a bit of a chat. They said they were just going to keep an eye on me.”

With Luol Deng and Joel Freeland sure to attract plenty of attention, having a 41 per cent three-point bomber like Corletto on the bench makes perfect sense.

While he hasn’t experienced international basketball yet, training every day against Bruton, Mika Vukona, Tom Abercrombie, Alex Pledger and Dillon Boucher has him well prepared.

“It’s one of the things I’ve noticed, the training at the Breakers is 10 times harder than it was at Melbourne, the guys compete every day.

“You are going up against the guys who play for the Tall Blacks, then you throw in Cedric who’s probably the best import in the league at the moment. It’s fun to go to training every day.”

So is he picking the Breakers’ veterans’ minds about what to expect in the international game?

“Not really, I am trying not to talk about it,” he said.

“The New Zealand media made a bit of a fuss about it about a month ago and the boys were asking about it. It’s one of those things where I have to just wait and see, so I’m concentrating on the Breakers and playing my role.”

He is doing that to perfection, as last Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash showed.

As for the result? Well Perth looked home leading 87-81 late in the fourth but Jackson nailed a triple and a tough driving basket.

With eight seconds left Breakers import Gary Wilkinson missed a game-tying leaner but who should be there but the relentless Vukona, his athletic tip-in forcing overtime.

In the extra period Bruton stepped up, slicing through traffic in 36-year-old slow motion to dish off three assists in the last 2:41 as New Zealand took a four-point lead.

Redhage then scored five-straight points including a fastbreak three-point play to reclaim the lead for the Wildcats with 62 seconds left.

Wilkinson finished a no-look Bruton dish to steal it back before last-gasp attempts from Redhage and Matt Knight went wide.

It was an amazing game, with many different players making influential plays.

None though, were more important than Corletto’s 12-point run when the game was slipping out of New Zealand’s grasp.

Now, how many national teams wouldn’t want that sort of scoring punch sitting on their bench for a time of need?

Paulo Kennedy from FIBA

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Oceania & Australia Basketball News & Events • Noticias & Eventos del Baloncesto Australiano

Let’s talk about…FIBA Asia-Pacific

This discussion comes up a lot around Olympic time, at the FIBA Basketball World Cup or when the zone qualifiers are being played out.

People, usually from Europe or the Americas, tell me that teams from Asia and particularly Oceania have it too easy, and that there must be a better way to sort qualification.

The latter is certainly a point with merit, but let me quickly deal with the former.

At bi-annual world tournaments since the turn of the century, the number one team from Oceania has on average finished ahead of 4.3 teams from Europe and the Americas.

The second team from Oceania has played in four tournaments in that time and finished in front of an average of 2.5 of those same teams. For the leading team from Asia, the average is two Europe or Americas teams below them.

Based on those figures, it is hard to justify more teams from the two power continents to replace teams from Oceania or Asia.

However, there can be no denying the imbalance of having Oceania, with effectively two teams, as a qualifying zone, when the other four continents play out major championships with 10, 16 or 24 teams.

While both Australia and New Zealand are competitive and respected on the world stage, in the long run it’s not serving anyone’s best interests to keep them isolated Downunder.

The Boomers, Tall Blacks, Opals, Tall Ferns and their junior compatriots don’t get to play in continental championships every two years to hone their tournament-play skills.

This could well be the cause of Australia’s 2-8 record in knockout games across men and women, juniors and seniors from 2009 to 2011.

Having to front up night-after-night - in foreign lands with a wide variety of refs – and face the very different styles of teams like Iran, China, Korea and the Philippines to progress to world tournaments can only be a good thing for Oceania’s powers.

While they might be favoured to finish top three, there will invariably be nights when they are seriously challenged and their basketball lives are on the line.

We saw how that challenge was too much for Iran against Jordan in last year’s FIBA Asia Championship. Australia needs those tough situations.

There are benefits for our northern neighbours too. Asia’s best will get the opportunity to play two additional world-class teams to help them bridge the gap with the top western countries.

There was a clear gap between the haves and have-nots at both Asia’s men’s and women’s championship last year. The tournaments only really came to life in the final days.

Having two more quality teams has obvious benefits of increasing the standard of the top half of the competition, and it would also allow the Asian men’s field to be split in two as it is in the women’s.

This creates better competition for the two zones’ minnows, with the likes of Fiji, Sri Lanka, Thailand & Co able to test themselves against teams of their standard in a B-Division format, and if good enough they can challenge to move up.

This format has not hurt the peripheral teams in Europe, whose marked improvement in recent years has resulted in a very level playing field across the continent.

How long it would take for such a system to bring those results in Asia is anyone’s guess. But what’s certain is basketball is booming on the world’s biggest continent and anything that can be done to capitalise on that should be seriously looked at.

From Australia’s point of view, this opens up Aussie basketball to a massive region it has been trying to crack for some time.

It would also allow the national teams to gain a greater profile back home, something the current lack of meaningful tournaments makes very difficult.

So what are the negatives?

Understandably, Asia’s top teams might feel their Olympic qualification spot could disappear if Australia and New Zealand went one-two at the FIBA Asia-Pacific Championship.

This could be countered by allowing only one downunder team to claim a spot for the first eight years after the merger, or giving this region three places if basketball increases to 16 teams at the Olympics.

There are already five places for Oceania and Asia at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, so nothing need change there.

If Australia’s powers-that-be are worried about losing the current qualification path, I say harden up and look at the big picture.

To me, merging the two continents to form FIBA Asia Pacific is a no-brainer, and the wheels should be set in motion sooner, rather than later.

Paulo Kennedy from FIBA

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