Australia Post Boomers squad member and college sensation A.J. Ogilvy, who starred for the Vanderbilt Commodores in his freshman season, spoke to Brett Hait of Nashville's City Paper in a special Q&A before leaving for home and a tilt at a Boomers berth for the Beijing Olympics.
CP: What are your chances of making the team?
Ogilvy: I spoke to the coach a few weeks ago, and he said he likes what I’ve done the past few years and said I have a pretty good opportunity to be in the running for selection. There are a lot of great players. It will be a challenge to step up and bring my best basketball. If I play well, I feel like I have a good opportunity to make the team.
CP: Since the basketball portion of the Olympics doesn’t start until August, could you possibly miss some class time at Vanderbilt?
Ogilvy: Maybe a day or two.
CP: Are the coaches OK with that?
Ogilvy: I’ve been given a pardon somewhat. They know I’ll be working out hard. If it comes down to it, the coaches here will be understanding. I’ve spoken to them at length about it, and they know it’s pretty much my life dream to play for Australia in the Olympics. I’m sure they’ll understand and let me miss a couple days of classes if that’s what needs to be done.
CP: So playing in the Olympics has been a dream?
Ogilvy: Definitely. It’s the one thing I want to do in basketball. It’s what I dreamt of as a young kid playing basketball and my whole life. It’s wonderful to finally have the opportunity.
CP: Looking at the current 35-man Australian roster, you guys have quite a wide range of ages.
Ogilvy: Typically, the Australian team has had an older age group. Most of the guys have been around 30 who made the team. The few past few years, the coach has tried to bring in some younger guys and make them part of the team. They’re trying to change it up a little bit.
CP: Can Australia compete on the world stage?
Ogilvy: Basketball in Australia is definitely taking strides forward. If we have a lot of players healthy, we’ll be competitive. In the world of basketball, everyone is sort of developing. It’s not just dominated by one country anymore. But we’ll definitely have to step up our game if we want to be competitive.
CP: If you don’t make the team, will you still benefit from the experience?
Ogilvy: Even if I don’t make the team, going home and playing against guys like Andrew Bogut, who plays in the NBA, and veterans who have been playing for years, it’s going to undoubtedly improve my game tremendously. It’s a great opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.
CP: How will you be different when you return to Nashville?
Ogilvy: I hope to come back as a better basketball player and a better person as well. I’m looking to work out over the summer, build a little muscle, and try to be in the best shape I can when I come back. I felt during the end of the season I was a little drained.
CP: What’s the biggest difference between SEC basketball and the basketball you played in Australia?
Ogilvy: I’d say the speed of the game. The guys you see over here are so much quicker than anyone we see in Australia. Getting up and down the court was probably the biggest difference.
CP: When is the last time you were in Australia?
Ogilvy: August. My parents came over here after Christmas to visit.
CP: How long does it take to fly to Sydney?
Ogilvy: Fourteen hours from Los Angeles.
CP: That’s a long flight for a guy of your size.
Ogilvy: [Laughing:] I try to sit in an exit row.
CP: Were there any surprises for you in your first year as a basketball player and student in the U.S.?
Ogilvy: No. I had a lot of fun over here. The school experience was challenging at times but it was enjoyable. In basketball, we had a great year. It ended unfortunately, but it was great to be part of the team and play with such great players. I couldn’t have asked for a better freshman year, really.
CP: All year there were rumours, mainly generated by an NBA Draft Web site, that said you might try to play professionally after your freshman year. Would you care to set the record straight?
Ogilvy: I’m definitely coming back for next year. I haven’t even discussed any opportunity about leaving Vanderbilt.
CP: How long do you see yourself being at Vanderbilt?
Ogilvy: I haven’t looked past this year. I don’t like to look too far into the future. It detracts from what I’m doing right now.
CP: Are you surprised how rumours can spread so quickly?
Ogilvy: Even my friends were asking me, “Are you staying in school?” I was like, “Yes, I’m staying in school.” It’s funny how word of mouth gets going when one Web site says something.
CP: Most people think next season will be a time of rebuilding for Vanderbilt. How do you see it?
Ogilvy: Obviously, with the seniors who are leaving, it’s going to leave a little bit of a hole, but with the players we have here and the players we have committed to us, it’s a great way to start the transition process. Everyone here knows that spots are open.
In other Boomers news, Cairns Taipans veteran guard Darnell Mee has told Emma Greenwood of the Cairns Post that he hopes his versatility will give him a chance at Olympic selection, despite the younger CJ Bruton and Patrick Mills being more fancied to play in Beijing.
"They’re younger Australian point guards, they should be talked about – I don’t have a problem with it," Mee said.
"The strength in my game is I’m able to do more than one thing and those guys are definitely point guards. I feel like I can do several different things on a basketball court.”
"I think because I’m such a taller point guard it gives me a different look there than say CJ and Patrick but (as far as being) out of the picture, I don’t believe that, I still think I’m very much in the picture."
Mee, who became an Australian citizen in late 2006 after coming to the NBL as an American import, is working hard to regain his fitness after suffering an ankle injury that kept him out of all but eight games for the Taipans last season.
The 37-year-old said he is having to be careful with his rehabilitation program.
"It’s all about conditioning and getting back to where I’m trying to get to," Mee said.
"Obviously it takes time, you can’t do it all in two or three weeks. It’s definitely a progress thing that you have to work through and that’s what I’m doing."
Mee said he was using his experience to ensure he didn’t push his rehab too far too fast.
"I’ve seen guys that get injured and then really work themselves back before they need to be back," he said.
"For a short term they look OK but then longer term it comes back to bite you. I don’t have the time to be looking at longer term.”
"I have to be smart about my body and how I keep it going and try to keep it going for a little while longer. Obviously it’s frustrating not playing (during the Taipans’ season) but I know that for me not to be playing, it’s pretty serious."
Mee said that the Boomers camp in June was going to be critical to his chances of gaining Olympic selection following the cancellation of the Australian team’s first planned camp due to player unavailability.
"There’s a camp in June, it’s still on and obviously going to be a big camp because everybody (overseas) will be finished then," he said.
"There won’t be that first camp to feel your way through it, you’ve got to hit the ground running in that second camp."