Another successful year on the national and international stage for Basketball Australia saw our teams claim nine gold, four silver and six bronze medals while qualification through the Asian region for FIBA tournaments began.
The year began with David Gould leading the Australian Gliders as head coach for his first tournament and they put the disappointment of missing out on Rio behind them with a silver medal at the Osaka Cup in Japan.
Three new faces in Isabel Martin, Bree Mellberg and Annabelle Lindsay joined the national team while Amber Merritt was named to the tournament’s All-Star Five.
The Under-23 Spinners also headed overseas to compete in the AOZ Qualifiers in Thailand and a bronze medal secured them a place at next year’s Under-23 World Championships where they will be hoping to emulate (and better) their bronze-medal winning performances from 1997, 2005 and 2013.
Following an interview process conducted by BA’s High Performance Managers in conjunction with the Australian Paralympic Committee, Craig Friday was appointed as the head coach of the Australian Rollers. Friday’s coaching staff also took shape with Brad Ness appointed assistant coach and former Rollers coach Murray Treseder as well as retired Roller Grant Mizens named Rollers’ mentor and specialist coaches.
The coaching appointments continued in April as the Boomers retained the services of Andrej Lemanis while Sandy Brondello was brought on to lead the Australian Opals with both coaches setting their sights on the Road to Tokyo 2020.
Becoming an Opal when she was still a teenager, Brondello played 302 games for the national team and finished as the third most capped player of all time. She was a two-time bronze medalist at the World Championships in 1998 and 2002 and won three straight Olympic medals with a bronze in 1996 and silver medals in 2000 and 2004 while also owning an overall winning percentage of 63% in the WNBA as a head coach.
The Gliders continued their resurgence under coach Gould with another medal midway through the year, winning bronze at the World Super Cup against Germany and the Netherlands.
They then headed directly to England for the Continental Clash and won a second straight bronze medal in a tournament against Germany, Great Britain and Japan. The two competitions provided the perfect lead-in to the AOZ Qualifiers while also building the confidence of the team that they can compete against the best in the world.
There was further success in the men’s wheelchair landscape with the Spinners claiming a bronze at the IWBF Under-23 World Championships.
Equaling their efforts from 1997, 2005 and 2013, the Spinners were led by Tom O’Neill-Thorne who earned the Player of the Game award in the bronze medal playoff against Japan while he was also named in the tournament’s All-Star Five. Players such as Brian Carminati, Jake Fulwood and Bailey Rowland also continued their development as they look to become future members of the Rollers.
June was capped off with Jonah Bolden being drafted into the NBA, joining Ben Simmons and ex-Boomers coach Brett Brown at the Philadelphia 76ers. While the 76ers have stashed Bolden in Asia as he improves his game, he will become the 19th Australian in the NBA when he does hit the court next season.
A packed July saw the Australian Crocs and Sapphires head to Guam for the Under-17 Oceania Championships where they both finished their tournaments undefeated. Those gold medals have earned them spots in the 2018 FIBA Asia Championships which is a qualifying tournament for the 2019 Under-19 World Cup.
In Guam, the Sapphires had Miela Goodchild, Isabelle Bourne and Emma Clarke named in the All-Star Five while Shyla Heal earned the Grand Final MVP on the back of 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists as well as her defensive performance on Charlisse Leger-Walker. The Crocs featured three men in the All-Star team too with Kody Stattmann and Sean MacDonald joining Samson Froling who also filled out his trophy cabinet with the Grand Final MVP award.
Joining the Asian region for the first time, the Australian Opals competed in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup in July and helped ease the pain of Rio with a confidence-building tournament. While they eventually fell to Japan by a point in a tense gold medal playoff, Opals debutants Lauren Mansfield, Alanna Smith and Kelsey Griffin all showcased their talents with Griffin earning the tournament MVP after averaging 17.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.3 steals and a block per game.
Her tenacity on court combined with her obvious pleasure in wearing the green and gold will spur the Opals on as they look to go one step further at next year’s World Cup.
The Australian Gems were unable to keep up the run of medals at this year’s Under-19 World Cup, finishing sixth after a loss in the Quarter-Finals. However, they still owned a positive 4-3 record at the end of the tournament while their defeats were by a combined total of just nine points with the team left to rue the what-ifs as a couple of late missed shots proved the difference between a potential medal and sixth place.
Following the Opals venture into Asia, it was the Boomers’ turn in August when they toured Lebanon for the FIBA Asia Cup. They capped off an unbeaten run of six straight wins with a comprehensive victory over Iran in the gold medal playoff, finishing with an average winning margin of 28.8 points.
In a shock move, no Australians were named in the tournament All-Star Five but the international debuts of Mitch Creek, Angus Brandt and Matt Hodgson as well as the veteran leadership from Daniel Kickert and Brad Newley showed the Boomers are in good hands while the NBA contingent is unavailable.
The run of Australian medals continued when the Emerging Opals claimed the gold medal at the World University Games for just the second time in their history. Consisting of players under the age of 23, WNBL young guns Lauren Scherf and Darcee Garbin dominated in the paint to help Australia traverse arguably the toughest group in the pool stage before defeating the USA, host nation Chinese Taipei in front of over 10,000 fans and a rampaging Japanese side to win the gold medal in convincing fashion.
Finalising their preparations for the AOZ Qualifiers, the Rollers also won a gold medal at the World Challenge Cup as they took care of host nation Japan as well as Great Britain and Turkey who had fought for the bronze medal at Rio just one year prior.
With the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame reinstated as an annual event, Ken Madsen (Contributor), Carrie Graf (Coach) and Karen Blicavs (nee Ogden), Kristi Harrower and Lucille Bailie (Players) were inducted in 2017.
Following their year-long preparation, the time came in October for the Gliders and Rollers to battle for a spot in the 2018 IWBF World Championships at the AOZ Qualifiers. The Gliders finished with a silver medal while the Rollers were able to go one step further and claim gold on the back of a perfect tournament but most importantly, both teams qualified for the World Champs next year.
In addition, Cobi Crispin and Clare Nott were named in the tournament All-Star Five and Amber Merritt was honoured with the tournament MVP award while Jannik Blair and Tom O’Neill-Thorne made the All-Star Five team for the men.
Another team headed to a qualifying tournament in October with the Sapphires contending the Under-16 Asian Championships. Advancing to the gold medal game undefeated, they faced a tough task against Japan but pulled out a heart-stopping 61-60 victory to finish on top of the podium while their success will see them at next year’s Under-17 World Cup where they will be aiming to defend their title from two years ago.
A host of SEABL stars carried the flag at this year’s FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup and the country’s achievements in the 5×5 space has begun to translate to the shorter form of the game with the men winning the bronze medal while the women caused their fair share of upsets to win gold. Isabelle Bourne, who won gold at the Under-17 Oceania Championships earlier this year, was named the tournament MVP while Lucas Barker made the men’s All-Tournament five as well.
Dominating proceedings at the INAS World Basketball Championships, Australia took home three medals in November with the men’s team, the Boomerangs, claiming bronze in a six-team tournament while the women, the Pearls, won gold and silver in a 3×3 tournament against France.
Maintaining their unbeaten run since joining Asia, the Boomers are off to the perfect start in their FIBA World Cup qualifiers after clean sweeping the first window against Chinese Taipei on the road and Japan in front of a loud Adelaide crowd. The Boomers will be back in Melbourne for the second window as they take on the Philippines on February 22 and Chinese Taipei on February 25 with the opportunity to move clear on top of Pool B before the third window in June/July. Get your tickets for those Melbourne games here.