Australia was drawn alongside Argentina, Serbia, Germany, Angola and Jordan for pool play and will be looking to place in the top three of the pool to avoid the United States in an elimination crossover match.
Matt Nielsen, who captained the Boomers at the Beijing Olympics, spoke with Basketball Australia from Valencia in Spain to discuss the draw, while NBA players Andrew Bogut, David Andersen and Patrick Mills found time to contact the governing body from stateside.
Nielsen is averaging 8.3 points at 56 per cent for Valencia as well as 4.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in the Spanish ACB with his team in fourth place (of 18 teams) with a 9-3 record. He has almost exactly the same stats for Valencia in the Euro Cup.
“I’m glad that the draw has happened and we can now focus on what's ahead,” Nielsen said.
“I feel that most of the pools are fairly even and there’s no real group of death. In regards to our pool, I think there are two really strong teams in Argentina and Serbia. Argentina has a veteran team with experience playing together for over a decade and has had numerous successes.
“With Serbia you have a legendary coach with a young and extremely talented roster who was the big surprise packet of the Eurobasket, finishing second. The third team in Germany is a danger game for us and we must win it to place ourselves in any real position to advance - and it goes without saying that to do this we will have to stop one of the most talented basketball players to ever lace them up, Dirk Nowitzki.”
Bogut, who scored a season high 27 points in a double overtime victory against Portland on Sunday, was less concerned with Australia’s pool opponents than the state of the Australian team.
“Obviously any group is tough at a World Championship,” Bogut said.
“We feel that if we can play our style of game we can be very competitive. We should not be too worried about the other teams but be more worried about ourselves playing to our strengths and style.”
David Andersen, who has found a place in the Houston Rockets rotation in his rookie NBA season, said he was looking forward to the Worlds.
“The draw we got seems to be pretty good and we have a bit of a mix of nations,” Andersen said.
“Upcoming teams like Jordan and Angola, they can be dangerous, so nothing can be taken lightly. Plus, throw in Germany and Serbia, two good European teams, and it will be a challenge to get wins.
“But the thing I’m looking forward to most is playing against my fellow Rocket, Luis Scola, who is with Argentina. They are always tough; they have some good talent and a bit of history with Australia as we have seen them many times in exhibition games or at world competitions.
“Overall, it should be fun and we’re hoping we can make it through to the second round at the top of the group.”
Mills, who is back in training with the Portland Trailblazers and is expected to undergo full contact drills in about 10 days, was equally excited.
“When I saw the draw my first reaction was, ‘sweet, that was better than what we had in Beijing and the last Worlds’,” Mills said.
“The draws we’ve had of late have been really tough but I think this one is better.
“I’d rather be in the pool that we’re in rather than another pool because the teams that are in our pool are teams that we’ve either beaten before or have come fairly close to beating, like Argentina. We need to get it done this time.”
The 2010 FIBA World Championship for men will take place in Turkey from August 28 to September 12 next year and will be played in Kayseri (Group A), Istanbul (Group B), Ankara (Group C) and Izmir (Group D).