Three NBL stars battling for FIBA ​​Basketball World Cup berth

Credit: FIBA

With last week’s win over Kazakhstan, Australia have officially clinched their ticket to the FIBA ​​Basketball World Cup 2023. While the World Cup qualification system can be brutal, with treks to every corner of Asia across multiple game windows, the end result was never really in doubt for the green and the gold. A remarkable 15-game winning streak, including nine qualifiers separated by an Asian Cup title, made the Australian Boomers the first team to emerge from Asia.

That decisive game against Kazakhstan was a microcosm of the entire qualifying journey. The Boomers were simply too talented compared to their opponent, with a 31-point quarter-time lead slamming the door on the hosts. With all 11 players in their roster on the scoreboard, Australia were once again able to show off their enviable depth on the world stage.

That depth was key to a qualifying and Asian Cup campaign that featured none of Australia’s NBA stars except for a brief appearance by Matthew Dellavedova before he signed with the Sacramento Kings. . It has seen backup coach Mike Kelly look to the NBL for his team’s stalwarts through every window. To date, the Boomers have used 31 standout players throughout the World Cup playoffs – of that group, 18 are currently on NBL rosters, while three others were in the league at the time of their draft.

“I think [the NBL] has improved tremendously lately,” Kelly said after the win over Kazakhstan. “Great young players showed they were very good on the international stage…it gave the guys a great opportunity and experience to improve.”

Of course, these aforementioned NBA stars will all emerge when the World Cup takes place next year. With ten Australians currently playing at the highest level and only 12 places available for the tournament, competition for selection will be fierce. There are also plenty of talents playing overseas who will be in contention, such as Nick Kay in Japan and Duop Reath in China, national team regulars with major tournament experience.

“We’ve got everyone lined up to play and everyone wants to play, so I think it’s going to be a really tough decision around this time next year,” Kelly said.

However, some of the NBL’s top players received extended auditions during the qualifiers and Asian Cup, and they will be firmly in contention for a ticket to the main event. With another qualifying window and plenty of NBL games to come, three players are ready to champion their case as the tournament draws near.

In every window since their Olympic triumph, the Boomers have fielded a relatively inexperienced roster. only two of that bronze-medal team have played since, and in their place there have been 16 national teams beginners.

Even with these new rosters, a handful of senior players have formed the core of the team throughout, with Adelaide keeper Mitch McCarron leading the way. With an Asian Cup gold medal already in his pocket and a long NBL career filled with accolades, he was a natural candidate for a managerial position. McCarron has appeared in six qualifying matches so far, tied for most of any Boomer, as well as the entire Asian Cup tournament, and has been a mainstay in the FIBA ​​competition. for about a year.

“Mitch was the captain that went on this trip, and he did a great job with that voice and by example,” said teammate Thon Maker after the Asian Cup final. “There’s not a moment where he hasn’t told everyone to huddle up and just say ‘it’s okay, stay together’.”

It helps that McCarron’s style of play and personality fully lend themselves to leading from the front.

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