Future bright for Australian Basketball after Rio 2016 campaign

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With the extinguishing of the Olympic flame, the Australian men’s and women’s national teams have officially ended their campaign with the last day of Rio 2016 signalling the end of a four-year cycle.

While it was not the result Australia was hoping for, both teams represented their country with courage, heart and a determination that will ensure Australian basketball continues to rise on the world stage.

The women advanced through the group stage unbeaten before falling to Serbia in the Quarter-Final by just two points, taking their international record since the 2013 Oceania qualifiers to 14-2.

Seven debutants had their first taste of the Olympic stage in Rio and have provided the building blocks for Australia moving forward with Penny Taylor having already announced her retirement from the international stage.

In their group stage game against France, Taylor equaled Lauren Jackson’s Australian Olympic scoring record from 2004 with 31 points before Elizabeth Cambage smashed through that mark with 37 against Japan in the following game.

Cambage finished the tournament as the leading scorer with 23.5 points per game in just 24 minutes. Putting that in context, she played at least six less minutes than any player in the top six for the Olympics while shooting at 58% and collecting 10.3 rebounds. She was one of only two players to finish with a double-double average.

Taylor (13.2 points) and Mitchell (11.3) were the other players to reach double-figures in scoring and they both finished in the top ten for assists with 5.5 and 4.5 per game respectively.

Coming back from knee injuries, Marianna Tolo (7.2 points, 4.5 rebounds per game) and Rachel Jarry (five points) also impressed off the bench.

The men broke through several barriers in their own campaign, creating history on the way.

They won the first game of the tournament for the first time since 1996 with a victory over France before backing up against Serbia to win the first two games of the group stage for the first time ever.

Their 4-1 record set themselves up for a strong run into the medal games before they put the world on notice with a 26-point smashing of Lithuania in the Quarter-Final.

Unfortunately, they could not sustain that form in the Semi-Final against Serbia who bounced back from a loss a week earlier to relegate Australia to the bronze medal game.

Against Spain, the Aussies owned a lead inside the final ten seconds but in the cruelest of circumstances, succumbed to Spain by a point to finish fourth for the fourth time at an Olympics.

Andrew Bogut was inspirational, fighting back from a knee injury in the NBA playoffs to average nine points, five rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 blocks.

David Andersen was also brilliant, averaging 8.8 points before recording 15 in the bronze medal game and while his and Bogut’s presence in Tokyo in 2020 seems unlikely, the Australian front court is in safe hands through Aron Baynes (9.6 points, 5.8 rebounds), Brock Motum (seven points) and Cameron Bairstow (5.4 points, 4.4 rebounds).

Bairstow will hopefully recover in time for the start of the NBL season after suffering a dislocated shoulder against Venezuela and missing the last three games.

Playing in his third Olympic campaign, Patty Mills was inspirational as he finished second for the tournament with 21.3 points at 47% shooting.

His 30 points was a team-high in the bronze medal game as he did everything to try and pull Australia over the line.

The aggressiveness of Matthew Dellavedova at the offensive end showed a different side to the point guard who has blossomed into a key park of the national team. He finished second for all players with seven assists per game to go with 8.9 points and set the tone for Kevin Lisch and Damian Martin to maintain the pace off the bench in their first Games.

The future certainly looks bright for the men with Chris Goulding, Ryan Broekhoff and Joe Ingles patrolling the perimeter, not to mention the up-and-coming names that could feature in the next Olympics.

Under the new FIBA structure for Olympic qualification, Aussie fans will have more chances than ever to see the men and women play live and their performances in Rio has proven that there are exciting times ahead for basketball in Australia.