Strong team face tall order
11 July 2008
With NBA 75-million dollar man Andrew Bogut and international stars David Andersen and Matthew Nielsen taking the court, that elusive Olympic medal for the Australian men’s basketball team may be in sight.
“We really have a talented group of guys going over and if we can push through the first round we have the ability to surprise everyone with our results,” Olympian Chris Anstey, who finished fourth in Sydney 2000 said.
Anstey, the reigning National Basketball League most valuable player, heads to Beijing with Olympic experience and high expectations for the team.
“We’re right up there with the European teams at the moment. We have a really unique style of basketball and if the teams we play don’t adapt to it in time, we’ll have a good advantage over them.”
Fresh off the back of a challenging tour in Europe and clean sweep series against Iran and New Zealand, the Australian team is in the valuable position of returning home for a training camp before arriving in Beijing.
“We’re fortunate to have this time to fix the issues we’ve identified in Greece and get over to Beijing with the best preparation we’ve ever had,” head coach Brian Goorjian said.
The biggest test for Goorjian is blending Bogut, Nielsen and Andersen with the other players after long seasons away in the American and Russian leagues.
“The challenge we face now is learning to play together,” Goorjian said. “The quality of players and the depth of experience we have is really exciting, but when Bogut joins us, we’ve got just eight days to make it work.”
Backing the household names such as CJ Bruton and Glen Saville will be some fresh new faces whose impact is certain to be felt both in Beijing and the coming years of international basketball.
Rising stars Patrick Mills (19) and Joe Ingles (20) are among six players making their Olympic debut in Beijing.
“The young players are going to be very important to our results,” Goorjian said. “They’ll be playing and contributing in Beijing but you’ll be watching them for the next two Games to come.”
Australia have drawn a tough group for the Games, facing Athens gold medallists Argentina, Asian champions Iran, Lithuania, European champions Russia and one team to be determined in a qualification series next week.
They avoid the powerhouse US ‘Dream Team’, 2006 world champions Spain and hosts China in the preliminaries. Goorjian will however put his team up against the United States in a pre-Olympic face-off in Shanghai on August 5.
With the “face of the Games” Yao Ming hitting the boards for China, men’s basketball is set to be the biggest team sport in Beijing.
At a difficult time for the sport domestically, the Olympic Games promise to mark an exciting time in the growth of Australian basketball.
Men’s basketball section of the 2008 Australian Olympic team:
David Andersen / Forward/Centre / 212cm
Chris Anstey / Centre / 213cm
David Barlow / Guard/Forward / 205cm
Andrew Bogut / Centre / 213cm
CJ Bruton / Guard / 188cm
Joe Ingles / Guard / 203cm
Patrick Mills / Guard / 181cm
Brad Newley / Guard / 198cm
Matthew Nielsen / Forward / 209cm
Shawn Redhage / Forward / 202cm
Glen Saville / Guard/Forward / 197cm
Mark Worthington / Forward / 202cm