Hungry Jack's NBL
NBL All Australian Team Preview
With their winless performance at the London Olympics and a disastrous fifth-place finish at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, there have been some dark times recently for Chinese basketball. But all that ended last year after former national team player and coach Gong Luming reclaimed the coaching reins, instituted a fearless, aggressive game plan and entrusted China’s long and athletic youth to carry it out. With seven players aged 22 or under, China swept their way to last year’s Asian champs gold medal behind the play of Yi Jianlian, Zhou Qi and Guo Ailun, winning all nine games by an average of 21.6 points, including a 13-point demolition of defending champions Iran in the semi-final. China’s next mission is hosting an NBL All Australian team in a three-game series in the cities of Nanning, Guangzhou and Beijing from 6-10 May as they prepare for the Rio Olympics. It is still not certain whether all the big guns will take the floor, or whether Gong will use the series to test out those battling for positions, but you can be sure whoever lines up will play the same relentless defence their coach demands, making this a tall order for the NBL representative side. But such is the depth in the NBL there’s still plenty of talent on show, and with six members of this team also in the Australian squad ahead of Rio, the series presents an ideal opportunity to impress Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis, who will be taking charge of the NBL All Australian team. Here’s a look at the players on show and what they might be expected to bring to the series: David Barlow (Free Agent) This Boomers veteran is looking to get back on track after a number of injury-plagued seasons, including an Achilles ailment that kept him from playing a minute in 2015/16. At a mobile but strong 205cm, Barlow can play both forward spots and is deadly with the corner three-ball. This tour is his chance to show every NBL team he will be a handy addition to their roster. Todd Blanchfield (Melbourne United) While there’s no doubt Blanchfield’s individual numbers headed south following his move to Melbourne, he learned to play a new complementary role similar to what would be required with the national team. Blanchfield was third in small forward rebounding last NBL season, and that will be important against a tall Chinese team, as will his ability to hit the spot-up triple. He’ll be hoping to replicate his 45 per cent accuracy from the 2013 World University Games when he last wore the green and gold.
Kickert sneaks it through @Hardball @Adelaide36ers @MelbUnitedHQ https://t.co/qGaYai0sfx — NBL (@NBL) December 23, 2015Majok Majok (Melbourne United) There isn’t a genuine centre on this roster, so Majok will be asked to bang with bigger opponents night-in, night-out, just as he did with United last season. Majok’s ability to defend and rebound – he ranked eighth in boards in his first NBL season – makes him a potential Boomer of the future, and at just 23 this series is a chance to make a good first impression as well as fine tune his game for a 2017 championship run with Melbourne. Mitch Norton (Illawarra Hawks) Thrust into the starting point guard role and captaincy of the Crocs over the past two seasons, Norton showed he has all the attributes of a dependable back-up point guard in the international game, and was rewarded with inclusion in the Boomers squad. His defence, penetration and execution of the ball-screen get big ticks, the question marks are on his ability to consistently hit from the perimeter (31 per cent last NBL season) and run the show with his usual composure against taller and longer opponents. Clint Steindl (Free Agent) Clint averaged 10.5ppg at 53 per cent from long range at the 2013 World University Games, and after finally converting that into quality NBL form last season he is currently one of the league’s most sought-after free agents. Steindl scored in double figures 20 times at the efficient clips of 46 per cent from the field and 39 per cent from deep, his shooting, length and athleticism at 201cm earning him a Boomers squad invite. Jesse Wagstaff (Perth Wildcats) With three titles and five Grand Final series in his seven-year NBL career, Wagstaff knows all about playing a role at a high level, and Lemanis will be looking to the Perth veteran as a leader of his defensive schemes. Wagstaff is probably a small forward in the international game, but will likely have to play the four-spot in this undersized team. If he can hold his own defensively – as he has consistently throughout his NBL career – his accurate three-point shooting (37 per cent last season) could give the Chinese bigs some trouble. Lucas Walker (Free Agent) One Boomer described Walker’s 2014 national team camp performance as “unbelievable”, the 203cm athlete considered unlucky not to make the World Cup team as a mobile power forward. Walker averaged 6.5 rebounds in 16 minutes per game over the final two months of last season for the 36ers and, as a free agent, will be looking to continue that form to impress both potential suitors and national team selectors.