The Golden Star Boomers are currently in Lizou, China for the Stankovic Continental Cup to defend the title they claimed in Kunshan, China a year ago.
The Stankovic Cup will serve as a perfect warm-up for the 2010 FIBA World Championship which will take place in Turkey in 32 days.
The Boomers grabbed the Cup last year by crushing Turkey in the final 69-52; and for the second time that tournament (won 70-54 in their opening match).
However, this year’s Boomers squad looks drastically different than it did a year ago with the only returning players being AJ Ogilvy (Besiktas, Turkey) and Damian Martin (Perth Wildcats).
This is mainly due to the fact that this year’s competition is a full month earlier then last year’s tournament. As a result many of the players who were unavailable due to commitments to their controlling clubs last year are now free to compete.
One of the biggest additions to this year’s squad is Patty Mills (Portland Trail Blazers, NBA) who will be in charge of running the offense for the Boomers.
Mills is coming off of a stellar month where he lead Australia in a preseason three-game sweep of the #1 FIBA ranked Argentina. He then followed that by lighting up the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas where some other Boomers weren’t as fortunate (see Summer League section below).
Mills lead the Trail Blazers’ summer squad to a 4-and-1 overall record where he tied for the team-high with 14.2 points per game.
Patty also was first on the team with 4.6 assists per game, third with 29.8 minutes per game, and fourth with 1.2 steals per game.
Mills is in a tough battle with 2010 draft pick Armon Johnson for the final guard position on the Trail Blazers roster.
Through the five Summer League games their numbers were practically identical with Mills having a slight advantage in points, assists, rebounds, and 3-point percentage; and Johnson the advantage in overall field goal percentage, steals, and less offensive turnovers.
A strong showing for Mills in the Stankovic Cup and the World Championships would go a long way in swaying this equation in his favour if the club has not made its decision.
Another major addition is David Andersen who after having a strong start in the NBA with the Houston Rockets was plagued late in the year with a few nagging injuries.
Andersen can single-handedly change the way a defense plays because along with being a threat inside the paint at 212cm, but he can step behind the arc and drain outside shots as well.
Teams are stuck either leaving him open on the outside, coming out and guarding him and clearing a wide open lane for Patty Mills, or shifting their defense entirely and leaving one of the other potent shooters open.
Joining the two NBA Aussies are a plethora of talented players who at any moment can cause problems for opponents.
2009 NBL Defensive Player of the Year Adam Gibson will help bolster the defense as will a quadruplet of former NBL Rookies of the Year in Matt Nielsen-1997, Brad Newley-2006, Mark Worthington-2007, and Joe Ingles-2008.
In addition to being successful in the NBL all of these players have gone on to play exceptionally well in Europe for their clubs; Nielsen (Olympiacos, Greece), Newley (Besiktas, Turkey), Worthington (Bros Baskets, Germany), and Ingles (CB Granada, Spain).
Rounding out the Boomers 12-man roster are; David Barlow (CIA Zaragoza, Spain), Aron Baynes (EWE Baskets Oldenburg, Germany), and Steven Markovic (KK Crvena Zvezda Beograd, Serbia).
With the array of talent on this year’s Boomers squad I have a feeling they will be a force to be reckoned with in both the Stankovic Cup as well as the World Championships, and David Andersen agrees.
“We have a lot of talent and I think we can go far,” Andersen told the AAP.
"A lot of people are probably going to write us off as a chance of getting a medal but there is a belief inside the team, inside ourselves [that] we can do something special after getting into those medal rounds."
The Boomers tip off against China Wednesday July 28th @ 7:30pm. They continue their quest the following two nights against Slovenia Thursday July 29th @ 4pm and Iran Friday July 30th @ 4pm.
All three of the Boomers’ preliminary opponents have qualified for this year’s World Championships in Turkey, so this will not be an easy string of games for the Aussies. Their opponents’ world rankings are as follows: China #9, Slovenia #20, and Iran #21.
The Boomers have a mix of older and younger players who all have a ton of international experience. They are a hungry group who believe in themselves, which is always a dangerous combination when it comes to sports. Look for this team to surprise the rest of the world over the course of the next month.
NBA SUMMER LEAGUE – LAS VEGAS
• Ogilvy (Chicago Bulls) - played in only three games and struggled in his time on court. Had totals of only three points (1-for-7 FG), five rebounds, two steals, and one assist in 25 total minutes.
• Jawai (Cleveland Cavaliers) - played only one game and played only three minutes in that game.
• Ingles (Golden State Warriors) – after a strong opening three games (where he saw 24, 19, and 17 minutes) he played only seven minutes in the fourth game and recorded only one steal.
Ogilvy, Jawai, Ingles, and Luke Schenscher (who didn’t see a single minute for Portland) didn’t see any time in their team’s final games.
• Lauren Jackson went 3-and-0 over the past two weeks and the Seattle Storm is now 19-and-2 and have won an impressive 10 games in a row. Jackson averaged 26.0 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, and 1.0 assists
• Penny Taylor helped her team to a 3-and-1 record and averaged 18.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.8 steals the past two weeks.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK
• Boomers in China to defend their 2009 Stankovic Cup
• Lauren Jackson faces fellow Opal Penny Taylor Wednesday 11:30am AEST