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NBL & Boomers share road to success

As we count down to Saturday morning when the Aussies take on Serbia in the semifinals in Rio for what is the biggest game for Australian basketball in years, we consider the impact this match will have on basketball back home. Since the NBL tipped off back in 1979 60 different players have donned the Green and Gold jersey for Australia, from the late, great Ian Davies (1980, 1984) to Chris Goulding (2016) today. Of those 60 players, a staggering 54 have had some NBL experience. In fact, the only six players to have represented the Boomers at an Olympic Games and never played in the NBL are Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes, Ryan Broekhoff with Aleks Maric soon to play for the Sydney Kings and Cameron Bairstow who will line up for the Brisbane Bullets in the upcoming 2016/17 NBL season. With the return of David Andersen, who’ll join Melbourne United, five of the twelve Boomers from Rio will be in action in the coming NBL season, along with first-time Boomers Goulding, Damian Martin and 2015/16 NBL MVP, Kevin Lisch. NBL Executive Director Larry Kestelman said the impact of the success of the 2015/16 NBL season and now the  charge of the Boomers was already becoming obvious. "We are seeing through the TV viewership and the social media chatter that basketball is once again the topic of conversation in staff rooms, restaurants and across digital.” "We made great strides last year in growing the NBL and its popularity with crowd numbers increasing in some locations by 40% and our live streaming and broadcast numbers growing. The success of our Aussie NBA players, seeing Delly (Matthew Dellavedova) win the NBA Championship combined with the impact our Olympic team is having, highlights that Australians love their basketball and we are excited to have players such as Dave Andersen returning from Rio to play in the NBL this season,” Mr Kestelman said. With a number of big signings through the introduction of the soft salary cap and a change to three imports the level of talent has increased across the NBL and players are looking to Australia before Europe to ply their trade. “I’ll be honest I was expecting to get to this point in three years after taking over the League, not one year. It’s fantastic and I can’t wait to see the season tip off in October when you will see even more exciting initiatives introduced,” he said. Former Melbourne Tigers Coach Lindsay Gaze manned the side lines for the Boomers in 1980 and again in Los Angeles in 1984, where his son Andrew, now the new Sydney Kings Coach, made his Olympic debut. The senior Gaze handed the coaching reins to Dr Adrian Hurley in 1988 who welcomed a young seven-footer in Luc Longley into the squad. Longley was attending the University of New Mexico at the time. Ironically, Hurley later became a Championship winning coach with the Perth Wildcats, where Longley played his only two NBL games in 1986. In 1992, the NBL suspended their season for four weeks to allow the eleven NBL players selected for the Boomers to compete in Barcelona (Longley was again the only non-NBL player in that team). That squad missed out on playing against the original Dream Team, and finished 6th after losing their quarter final to eventual Silver Medallists, Croatia. In 1996, the NBL spread out their schedule, playing just 6 games over a four week span to allow the twelve Boomers players (all from the NBL with Longley unavailable) and coaches to make their way to Atlanta and back. Legendary NBL Coach Barry Barnes led that squad to a 4th place finish and that campaign is most remembered for the heroics of Tony Ronaldson who sent the Boomers to the medal rounds with a three pointer against Croatia in the quarter finals. The Boomers lost to Lithuania in the Bronze Medal game after meeting the U.S. Dream Team in the Semi-Finals. In 2000, the Boomers, again led by Barnes, featured Longley, Gaze, Shane Heal, Mark Bradtke and Chris Anstey, all of whom had NBA experience by then and was considered our best medal chance ever at the time. Once again though, we fell to Lithuania going for Bronze. With Australia qualifying automatically as the host nation, the 2000 Games also saw the Olympic debut of the New Zealand Tall Blacks, who featured several future NBL players including Kirk Penney, Pero Cameron, Phill Jones, Mark Dickel (who debuted with the Victoria Titans right after those games) and of course current New Zealand Breakers coach, Paul Henare under Head Coach Keith Mair. The Tall Blacks also qualified for the 2004 Athens Games, where their roster included six players from the Breakers, who had just completed their first season as an expansion club in the NBL. NBL players have a rich history in Olympic play. In fact, the leading scorer at an Olympic Tournament has twice come from the NBL. Ian Davies led the way in 1980, scoring 209 points in 7 games for an average of 29.3 points per game. Andrew Gaze paced all scorers in Sydney with a 19.9 points per game average over 8 games, with Shane Heal finishing second (14.9ppg). Patty Mills led all scorers at the London Games in 2012, less than a year after spending some time with the Melbourne Tigers during the NBA Lockout. Mills averaged 21.2 points per game over 6 games for the Boomers in London. Quick Stats:
  • The 95 points Australia scored against Serbia in the preliminary rounds was their highest scoring game so far and was Serbia’s worst defensive performance in this Olympics.
  • In our history of Olympic basketball, we have never beaten any team in the preliminaries and lost to that same team in a later round.We have never won 6 matches at an Olympic Games before
  • It’s a great opportunity for Australia with the USA and Spain battling each other in the other side of the draw. Those teams have played off for Gold and Silver in the past two Olympic finals.
 
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