THE BIG guns from the NBA were nowhere to be seen but that didn’t stop the Australian men’s basketball team dominating the Commonwealth Games tournament, writes RON REED:
MEN’S BASKETBALL in Australia has been on the comeback trail for two or three years now and it got another substantial tick with an almost completely dominant performance at the Commonwealth Games. A day after the Opals won the women’s gold medal, the Boomers followed suit by claiming the last Australian gold medal of the Games, thrashing Canada 87-47.
That was the same margin by which they beat the inexperienced Canadians in the first pool game and they also beat Nigeria by 42 points and Scotland, in the semi-final, by 57, with only the New Zealand Tall Blacks, the eventual bronze medallists, giving them a contest, going down by six.
The Boomers were made up entirely of players from the National Basketball League which has been improving in standard and public interest since businessman Larry Kestleman spent several million dollars taking it over and revamping its image. The full strength Boomers finished just one place out of the medals at the Rio Olympics, and Australia has never had a stronger presence in the American NBA with 10 players, including the brilliant Ben Simmons, Patty Mills, Andrew Dellavadova, Joe Ingles and Aron Baynes, as well as the currently unemployed Andrew Bogut, flying the flag proudly. So there is a lot happening for the hoops.
The Boomers were keen to get the job done because it is only the second time basketball has been played at the Commonwealth Games, with Australia winning both gold medals in Melbourne 12 years ago. It was never in the slightest doubt – in fact, it was as good as over at quarter time when they had already doubled Canada’s score, 20-10, and that was with some pretty inaccurate shooting, which continued throughout.
There is no point wondering what the margin might have been if Australia had been at full strength with Simmons, Mills and company because the same applied to the Canadians, who have 14 players in the NBA, none of whom came to the Gold Coast. They were the youngest team in the tournament, with no player over 24. Australia had none under 25 and the vast gap in experience was obvious as they, too, struggled to convert the limited number of scoring opportunities they were provided.
Australia claimed only 42 per cent of their three-point chances and 47 per cent from in close, with Melbourne star Chris Goulding starting the onslaught with a big three-pointer and finishing with a game-high 112 points, one more than Nicholas Kay and Nathan Sobey. All 12 players contributed to the scoresheet.
Veteran Brad Newly, 33, a survivor from the team that won in Melbourne, described it as a mateship experience. “I felt like a young pup out there,” he said. “It’s really exciting to do it in your home town. Everyone did their bit, as you can see by the score. So we’re really happy to win the gold medal. We are a group that has been together for a while now. We are all experienced guys and we play against each other every week in the NBL. It’s just really good mateship. We just love being part of it.”
Canada’s best player, guard Munis Tutu, said he and his team-mates were just as happy as the Australians because they had arrived with no expectations and regarded a silver medal as a major accomplishment.
Author: Ron Reed
RON REED has spent more than 50 years as a sportswriter or sports editor, mainly at The Herald and Herald Sun. He has covered just about every sport at local, national and international level, including multiple assignments at the Olympic and Commonwealth games, cricket tours, the Tour de France, America’s Cup yachting, tennis and golf majors and world title fights.