The Australian men’s basketball team will have a youthful feel about them during Saturday’s FIBA Asia Cup qualifier but Matt Kenyon says the talented group are ready for this unique opportunity.
Don’t call them the Baby Boomers. That was the message from Matt Kenyon despite the 23-year old guard being the oldest member of the Australian men’s basketball team for Saturday’s 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Group C qualifier against New Zealand in Cairns.
Sure, the ex-Brisbane Bullets guard is the only player in the squad born before the year 2000. And yes, the 12-strong Boomers outfit not only boasts eight members of the 2021 Emus national under-19 squad but also players aged as young as 16.
Even Kenyon admits there are a “few babies” in arguably the Boomers’ most inexperienced team as they attempt to defend their Asia Cup title.
Yet the classy guard is convinced his budding Australian outfit can not only successfully continue their journey toward qualification for the Asia Cup later this year but also the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Asked if they should be called the Baby Boomers, Kenyon laughed: “Oh, I don’t know about that. There are a few babies on this team but I still feel like we have enough talent to still be able to be called the Boomers.
“But yeah I mean, it’s pretty crazy. Before I arrived for camp I turned 23 and there are a few 16-year olds in the team.
“I definitely feel like a bit of an old head, and they remind me from time to time which is pretty funny but it’s all good – they are all good guys.”
Earlier in February, Basketball Australia unveiled a “who’s who” for their Tokyo 2020 Olympic men’s squad.
There was Ben Simmons, Joe Ingles, Patty Mills and Aron Baynes, amongst others.
Yet Australia’s roster for this weekend’s Asia Cup group stage clash at Cairns Pop-Up Arena is more a case of “who’s that?” So how did this happen?
COVID quarantine rules and other protocols have not only ruled out NBA but also NBL stars from the trans-Tasman clash this weekend.
It ensures players featuring in the Asia Cup qualifier in Cairns are either based in Australia and/or play in leagues outside the NBL.
It may be an unprecedented situation but the young Boomers team’s task remains the same – spark momentum for Australia to seal a top two Group C spot and earn a nod for the 2021 Asia Cup tournament starting in August.
An Asia Cup spot will also secure the Boomers a place in qualifying for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
No wonder Kenyon admitted he was “pinching himself”.
The closest the livewire NSW guard had previously got to the big time to date had been playing 21 NBL games for the Bullets from 2016-18.
He then turned his attention to the USA where he impressed for NBA G-League outfit South Bay Lakers before returning home in March 2020.
“Because of COVID this is the most I have spent at home for the last five years,” NSW Central Coast-based Kenyon said.
“I have been working out and preparing for moments like this. As a professional basketballer you never know when your name is going to be called.
“COVID has created some pretty crazy circumstances but my head is not spinning (ahead of Asia Cup) – I am ready for anything.”
Saturday’s Boomers squad members may be largely unknown to the public but not to each other.
Every player is a product of Basketball Australia’s globally-renowned Centre of Excellence or NBA Global Academy, both based in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport.
As a result, Kenyon said he hoped to produce a “deadly one-two punch” with fellow guard, teenager Dyson Daniels.
“There is a bit of pressure. There are a lot of nerves but I am more excited,” said Daniels, son of SEABL great and Bendigo Braves legend Ricky.
“I think there are just two players I haven’t trained alongside in national camps so we have a really good bond – I am confident everyone will go out there and give their best shot.”
Tickets are available for this game starting from $10 via taipans.com
This game will be broadcast live across Australia on Fox Sports and streamed via Kayo from 6.30pm AEST / 7.30pm AEDT.
This 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifier is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland along with Cairns Regional Council and Tourism Tropical North Queensland.
Written by Laine Clark, freelance contributor for Basketball Australia