At the conclusion of another successful year for basketball in Australia, take a look back at the most memorable moments of 2018 headlined by the Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals winning a FIBA World Cup silver medal, 14 medal-winning performances overall, the announcement of #BoomersUSA and the Boomers qualifying for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
The year began with an exciting announcement as Basketball Australia, in conjunction with the NBA, revealed to the Eltham Wildcats and Bulleen Boomers that they would be heading to Orlando, Florida to compete in the Jr. NBA World Championships as winners of the 2017 Under-14 Club Championships.
The adage of Everyone’s Game was expanded with the introduction of the 3x3Hustle, a venture between the NBL and Basketball Australia that provides a pathway for aspiring players to go from the suburbs of Australia to competing on the world stage.
The junior wheelchair basketball programs announced new coaches with Stephen Charlton joining the Under-25 Devils and five-time Paralympian and 2008 gold medallist Brad Ness taking the reins for the Under-23 Spinners.
In preparation for the IWBF World Championships in August, the Australian Gliders headed to Japan where they won a bronze medal at the Osaka Cup.
The first Junior Championships on the calendar were held in Gosford, New South Wales and Basketball Victoria swept their way to four gold medals with wins in the Under-20 and Ivor Burge men’s and women’s competitions.
The second window of FIBA World Cup qualifiers were held on home soil in Melbourne and the Boomers defeated Philippines and Chinese Taipei to maintain their winning streak.
The biggest announcement in Basketball Australia’s history occurred in March with the reveal that USA Basketball would play two games against the Boomers in Melbourne next August at Marvel Stadium in front of 55,000 fans.
These games will be played as preparation for the FIBA World Cup and with only a couple of weeks in between the games and the World Cup, both teams will be putting their full-strength squads on the floor.
Australia continued their success at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament, winning a silver medal to back up their gold from 2010, another silver from 1998 and two bronze medals from 1994 and 2008. The team competed with just ten players and Callum Dalton was named to the All-Star Five.
In their first foray into the Under-16 Asian Championships, the Crocs came out on top with a gold medal, finishing undefeated with an average winning margin of 30 points while also qualifying for the 2018 Under-17 World Cup.
The Under-18 Australian Championships and Kevin Coombs Cup were held in Geelong, Victoria with WA Metro claiming the Under-18 men’s gold medal for the first time since 2000, Vic Metro winning the Under-18 women’s for the fourth time in five years and Victoria claiming an inaugural Kevin Coombs Cup.
For only the second time ever, basketball was an event at the Commonwealth Games with Gold Coast hosting the 2018 edition. Both the Australian Opals and Boomers cruised the tournament undefeated, the Opals winning 19 out of 20 quarters across five games with every player hitting the scoreboard in each contest while the Boomers won every game by an average margin of 37 points. The final was bittersweet for Belinda Snell though as it signalled the end of her international basketball career.
A men’s and women’s team headed to Mongolia for the FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup in May. The women won a bronze medal to back up their gold from the previous year while Tommy Garlepp proved the hero for the men, hitting game-winners in the Semi-Final and final to claim gold, finishing as the tournament’s leading scorer and earning the MVP.
The Gliders continued their IWBF World Championships preparation by hosting Germany for a six-game series at the Centre of Excellence.
The Gliders and Rollers then headed to Japan for another series of warm-up games before the Gliders toured the USA in their final preparation for the IWBF World Championships.
Ben Simmons became the first Australian to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award in a season in which he won an Eastern Conference Player of the Week honour and posted 12 triple-doubles, the second-most ever by a rookie.
Simmons then chalked up another first, as he became the only Australia to ever grace the cover of NBA2K19.
Chemist Warehouse came on board in July, supporting women’s basketball as a major partner of Basketball Australia while becoming the naming right’s partner for the Opals and WNBL.
The Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals toured China in a four-nations warm-up tournament for the FIBA World Cup, winning five out of six games with their WNBA players still missing.
Having qualified for the Under-17 World Cup earlier in the year, the Crocs finished sixth at the tournament. While the result did not match the lofty standards set by Australia in the past, it was the Crocs’ equal-third best result in tournament history while three of their four losses came by four points or less.
The Sapphires then competed in the women’s Under-17 World Cup and stunned Hungary in the bronze medal playoff, coming back from an eight-point deficit to claim their second ever medal at the tournament. Shyla Heal was the heroine for Australia, scoring 16 points in the second half against Hungary to propel the Sapphires to victory while she was also named to the All-Star Five.
Vic Metro swept the Under-16 Junior Championships on the Sunshine Coast with the boys winning back-to-back titles while the girls earned their 16th Championship in the past 18 years.
A busy July was marred by the infamous brawl between the Philippines and Boomers during the FIBA World Cup qualifiers third round.
On a positive note though, Liz Cambage broke the WNBA league scoring record with a 53-point performance for the Dallas Wings. She shot 17-22 from the field including 4-5 from the three-point line while also adding ten rebounds, two assists and five blocks in arguably the most dominant game in the history of the league.
Boomer Matthew Dellavedova joined Lauren Jackson as an official Aussie Hoops ambassador with fellow national player Patty Mills passing the torch to him.
The Emus headed to Thailand where they won the FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship, defeating New Zealand in a hard-fought gold medal playoff while also booking their place at next year’s Under-19 World Cup.
After it was announced earlier in the year that Bulleen and Eltham would compete at the Jr. NBA World Championships, they proved their worth on the international stage.
Ally Marshall of the Boomers tipped things off with the first basket of the tournament before Bulleen advanced through the group stage and into the International Final, taking on an All-Star European team and falling by just three points. The Wildcats lost only one more game than the Boomers, reaching the International Semi-Finals against Canada.
Following months of preparation, the Rollers and Gliders finally arrived in Germany for the IWBF World Championships in August. The Gliders finished with a 3-4 record in ninth place while the Rollers claimed a fourth consecutive medal at the tournament, backing up their gold medals from 2014 and 2010 and a bronze in 2006 with another bronze medal.
Tristan Knowles and Shaun Norris have been a part of every one of those medal-winning teams while it was Brett Stibners and Bill Latham’s third medal and the second medal for Jannik Blair, Tom O’Neill-Thorne and Luke Pople.
Ahead of the 2018/19 season, the Chemist Warehouse WNBL announced their return to free-to-air television with SBS announcing they would broadcast one game per round.
The Boomers continued their FIBA World Cup qualifiers and defeated Qatar and Kazakhstan by more than 50 points each in the fourth window. Their victory against Kazakhstan came at Bendigo Stadium as the Aussies christened the stunning refurbished arena while Daniel Johnson made his debut during the games.
In the lead-up to their FIBA Women’s World Cup, an understaffed Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals side finished their warm-up series while also bringing in Tessa Lavey and Sami Whitcomb due to late injuries.
However, they put that lack of proper preparation behind them and bounced back from the disappointment of Rio to win a silver medal at the FIBA Women’s World Cup. The Opals thrashed Nigeria, Argentina and Turkey by an average margin of 28 points in the group stage and then dismissed China by 41 points in the Quarter-Final.
That set up a clash against host nation Spain in the Semi-Final in front of thousands of patriotic fans and the Opals overcame an eight-point deficit at three-quarter time to prevail 72-66. The win was one of the most famous in the team’s history but they were unable to go on and beat the USA, settling for a hard-earned silver medal.
Liz Cambage was named to the All-Star Five and the tournament saw the continued emergence of Alanna Smith and Ezi Magbegor, the national team debuts of Alex Bunton and Sami Whitcomb while Bec Allen, Cayla George and Tessa Lavey won their second World Cup medal.
The silver medal follows bronze medals in 1998, 2002 and 2014 as well as a gold in 2006. They have won 27 of their last 31 FIBA World Cup games with three of those four losses coming against the USA.
Robyn Maher became the second female basketballer to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame after a brilliant career that included an Olympic bronze in 1996, a World Championship bronze in 1998 and a record 374 games for Australia, including 174 as captain.
At the Under-14 Club Championships, Eltham Wildcats went back-to-back with another title in the boys competition to become the fifth club to achieve the feat while the Gold Coast Waves claimed their inaugural Championship at the girls tournament.
3×3 basketball was introduced to the Youth Olympics and despite entering as the lowest ranked team, Suzi-Rose Deegan, Sara-Rose Smith, Alex Fowler and Ruby Porter led Australia to a bronze medal and a 5-2 record overall.
Off the court, the Players Association and Chemist Warehouse WNBL introduced the Parental and Pregancy Care Policy.
Following the Emus’ qualification through to the FIBA Under-19 World Cup, the Gems followed suit and finished their first foray into the Under-18 Asian Championships with a bronze medal.
Game 2 of the #BoomersUSA series sold out, still more than ten months out from tip-off.
The Boomers then officially qualified for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, claiming a win against Iran at Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne. The game also saw Craig Moller make his national team debut, becoming the first AFL player to go on to represent the Boomers.
The Boomers then backed up two days later with another crushing win over Qatar to finish the qualifiers undefeated at home.
Another landmark deal was reached in December with the Players Association and Basketball Australia announcing a national teams Collective Bargaining Agreement, ensuring wide-ranging improved conditions for Australia’s elite players.
The 2018 Australian School Championships hosted a record 170 teams and over 500 games in five days before Rowville Secondary College and Trinity College won Championship Division gold medals.
The year was then capped by the Australian boys and girls teams winning gold medals at the Under-15 Oceania Championships. It was the first time the tournament had been held and both teams qualified for the 2019 Under-16 Asian Championships in the process. A top-four finish at that competition next year will earn them a place at the 2020 FIBA Under-17 World Cup.