FINDON, AUSTRALIA—There’s modesty and politeness from the Australian Boomers in their expected dominance of the months-long FIBA World Cup Qualifiers that continue here at the Titanium Security Arena.
Coach Andrej Lemanis laughs with pleasantness observations that Australia, which ruled 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut last September, will easily make it to the grand stage in China.
“No, not at all,” Lemanis told The Filipino Connection on the favorites tag.
“They are very good teams,” he adds, referring to the Asian teams (half of which they bamboozled in Beirut by an average of 28.83 pts.). He kind of notes though that the Beirut tournament did not see the best players from the 15 other competing countries.
Boomers rookie Nathan Sobey, of the Adelaide 36ers, agrees with Lemanis on not noting any tough team in Asia, or at least in Group B where the Philippines is also.
“We got to worry about tomorrow night [against Japan at Titanium]. Anything can happen. We hope to execute to win,” the 27-year-old Sobey said.
The Boomers will play Gilas of the Philippines on February 22, 2018 at a venue that’s yet to be announced. In Beirut, the Philippines —without naturalized Andray Blatche— placed seventh.
On the Philippine team, Lemanis said “we’ll see.” “They look very, very good. Their style… They’re quick and all those things.”
Nevertheless, Lemanis respects all of their Asian opponents even if they have been hammering them at will since Beirut, like the Boomers are playing drills games.
“We respect all our opponents. But at the end of the day, we always focus on ourselves. On what we need to do to be the best team we can be. We cannot control how they play. We can control how we play,” he said.
Australia kicked off its World Cup qualifying home-and-away matches with a 104-66 shellacking of Chinese-Taipei at the Heping Basketball Gymnasium in Taipei City.
The Boomers are set to play Japan (which the Philippines beat narrowly last Nov. 24 in Tokyo) tomorrow night at the arena found in Findon, a suburb some 15 mins outside of the South Australian state’s capital of Adelaide.
It is said to be the first time in ten years that the Boomers will pay in the Adelaide 36ers’ Titanium Security Arena. The arena can pack 8,000 fans; it’s appearance on the outside looks like a warehouse given two cargo trucks parked outside. There’s a public bus coming to the arena coming from Adelaide’s city proper.
Basketball is not the top sport here. Australians craze over footy (or Australian rules football), cricket, rugby and international football.
Lemanis hopes Australians will pack the Titanium Security Arena. He is banking on the FIBA qualifiers’ home-and-away matches as come-ons to entice more interest from Australians to the sport.
“The game we had in Taipei was sold out. Philippine games are always old out. Hopefully with this format of FIBA, from now on meaningful home games will be sold out.”
Australia is currently ranked ninth in the world. With a squad filled with some NBA players, the Boomers almost won the Olympic bronze medal last year at Rio de Janeiro, losing to Spain in the battle for the bronze.
The Boomers, led by 36er Mitch Creek, ruled the FIBA Asia Cup with no NBA players on the roster but with two former Olympians. Many Asian countries, including the Philippines, had key missing players in Beirut.
Yet with the way the Australians have been treating the Asian teams, qualification at the grandest stage seems easy for them.
Again, Lemanis laughs this off heartily. “We will try to win tomorrow against Japan. That’s all we can control.”
Lemanis adds: “We need to stay focused, engage and handle the things that we can control. Be better today and come out well tomorrow.”
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