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NBL well represented in Boomers squad

When the Australian Boomers first made a serious push for an Olympic medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, they did so with a team filled with NBL players. The likes of Andrew Gaze, Damian Keogh and a young Luc Longley led the way as the Boomers fell just short of a medal in fourth place. In the decades since the Australian talents have taken on the world at club level and many thought the national league would offer little to the modern Boomers who have recently featured NBA and European based stars. But all that has changed this year with the NBL supplying nine of the 18 players in this week’s Rio Olympics selection camp in Melbourne while international stars Patty Mills, David Andersen, Brock Motum and Joe Ingles also have spent time in the NBL. Sydney Kings signings Aleks Maric and Brad Newley are just returned to the NBL after years overseas and are representing their new club on the international stage. Brisbane Bullets duo Adam Gibson and Daniel Kickert, Cairns Taipans’ pair Cameron Gliddon and Nathan Jawai, Melbourne United’s Chris Goulding, Kings’ star Kevin Lisch and Perth Wildcats’ Damian Martin are all in camp with a chance to go to Rio with the final team to be named on Monday. The Boomers' coaching staff also has strong NBL links with head coach Andrej Lemanis about to take charge of the Bullets post Olympics along with assistant coach Mick Downer while Perth Wildcats' coach Trevor Gleeson is also an assistant coach. As a London Olympian and a long time banner holder of NBL players in the national team, Gibson didn’t think the league would again have such a contingent within the Boomers. “I think it just shows where the league is going and Larry [Kestelman] and his team have done such a good job in building the league back up in the last 18 months,” Gibson said. “To have guys like Newley, Maric and those guys coming back plus Goulding, Lisch, Gliddon, Kickert, Jawai and Martin - the list just goes on. “It’s awesome for the league to have so many guys representing Australia and credit to those who are taking the league back to where it needs to be. “No way did I see this happening so quickly. Normally it’s one or two guys putting their hand up to vie for spots but now we have half the guys who are NBL guys - a couple of years ago you wouldn’t have thought it. “But now it will hopefully be a trend and in another couple of years the majority of the guys, except those in the NBA, can come back to their home states or at least their home country.” The guard battles during Boomers’ scrimmages have looked like the fourth quarter of the best NBL games as Martin, Gibson, Lisch and Gliddon all take on each other. Lisch is in his first Boomers’ campaign after receiving his Australian citizenship this year following his second NBL most valuable player award. You might think Lisch would feel like an outsider but he says he has been embraced by the squad from both overseas and NBL players. “The guys have been amazing and I’ve just tried to slot in and play the way I play,” Lisch said. “It’s just a matter of playing basketball and the guys are treating me like one of them which I am now. “From a personal prospective it really gets your national pride going, especially in my situation, I really feel true blue now - it’s been an amazing experience even outside of the basketball court.” For Martin the experience of being once again in the mix for the Olympics has been fun and a chance to catch up with old mates like Maric, Newley and NBA star Andrew Bogut whom he attended the Australian Institute of Sport with when they were teenagers. Back then their AIS side played the 2004 Boomers ahead of their Athens Olympics, now they are part of the main team. “It’s amazing that I was at the Institute with these guys and we still share so many laughs over dinner reminiscing about the old days,” Martin said. “To be 31 years old, 14 years later and all gone our separate ways but each offseason we can come back together and still have a laugh about what we would get up to as teenagers.” Martin admitted it was as physical as ever during scrimmages and drills. “When you are on the court you are just going as hard as you can for as long as you can,” Martin said. “It’s not until you get back to the room and have some downtime that you realise it’s not just trying to get ready for Rio, it’s a selection camp and some guys probably have one foot in the door and others are still on the bubble. “I’m not in denial where I am in this squad and it would be a dream come true if I was named in this team so I’m enjoying the process in the mean time.” Speaking for all the NBL players involved in the Boomers, Martin said it was an honour to play with the national team. “I love it,” Martin said. “Just walking in here you hear stories from the NBA, from Europe and other places - there is a special group of guys in this squad and whoever gets named in the final 12 will represent Australia well and from an NBL prospective it’s amazing to go from watching some of these guys on TV to be playing with them on court. “You always get something good to take back to your NBL club.”  
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