Despite losing Rio Olympian Chris Goulding to injury, being unable to hold player selection camp and having only one training session prior to facing an unbeaten Filipino national team, Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis says it’s a challenge the team is ready for.
“We haven’t seen each other for three months and that’s a challenge, but the players who are part of this team have been a part of the program for six to twelve months, this is what we prepare for.” Lemanis told reporters on Thursday.
“We’ve got two practise sessions leading into the game and yesterday was a little clunky as guys just found their way and got their rhythm back with one another but I thought today was a good session.”
On the same day that Lemanis confirmed Chris Goulding would play against Gilas Pilipinas due to an injury suffered in Sunday’s NBL game against Illawarra, Filipino coach Chot Reyes noted Jason Castro, who has been dubbed as Asia’s Best Point Guard will be unable to play due to injury also.
Despite this, both teams are expecting to play before a sold-out crowd of 7,500 at Margaret Court with only a small amount of tickets still available for the clash.
The Philippines have a talented squad, built around a number of speedy guards and a legitimate NBA big man. Andray Blatche, a six-year NBA veteran with the Washington Wizards will be the focal point of the Philipinos offence, whilst the tenacity and quickness of its guards will aim to make it tough for Australia to bring up the ball up the court.
“That’s the challenge of this game, our size versus their quickness and both teams trying to exploit the advantage going their way,” said Lemanis.
“They (Filipinos) are very, very good — a good athletic group. They move the ball, let them fly, play with good energy and fun around them.”
Lemanis has made a concerted effort to develop a strong chemistry and culture within the Boomers camp which bodes well for them, despite the limitations the FIBA World Cup qualifiers have presented them so far.
“There’s a special chemistry about when they get in the green and gold that just permeates throughout the group,” he said.
“They want to do well for one another, they want to do well for their country and having that selflessness helps the group gel and move the ball and get in the right spots defensively.”
In the recently held FIBA Asia Cup Mitch Creek led the team with 15 points per game but made it clear that defence will be the key to defeating Gilas.
“I just need to play defence, that’s what it starts and finishes. We’ve got a great group of guys here, no ****heads and as long as we play as a group, we’ll do well” said Creek.
Mitch Norton, who was named as a replacement for the injured Goulding agreed with Creek’s assessment.
“It’s a shame what happened to Chris but it’s awesome to be a part of this team again. We just need to focus on defence, stop them from running where they want, slow down their pace, thats the key ” said Norton.
Norton’s was still in a Melbourne Hotel from the Hawks game against Melbourne Sunday, making him an easy choice to replace Goulding.
“Obviously they couldn’t select me due to recent form since I’ve been out with the injury but it’s awesome to be back in the squad”.
The Boomers play both their FIBA World Cup qualifiers at Margaret Court Arena, facing the Philippines on Thursday night and then Chinese Taipei, whom they have previously defeated at the Asia Cup on Sunday night.
The top three teams of the Boomers group will advance to the next round of the FIBA World Cup. With the Boomers already having defeated in November’s FIBA qualifiers, advancing to the next round is almost certain.
Gilas Pilipinas squad:
Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Matthew Wright, Roger Pogoy, Allein Maliksi, Gabe Norwood, Calvin Abueva, Carl Bryan Cruz, Abu Tratter, Japeth Aguilar, JuneMar Fajado, and Andray Blatche
Australian Boomers squad:
Angus Brandt, Jason Cadee, Mitch Creek, Cam Gliddon, Mitch Norton, Matt Hodgson, Nick Kay, Daniel Kicket, Kevin Lisch, Mitch McCarron, Nathan Sobey, Jesse Wagstaff
The Boomers face the Philippines at Margaret Court Arena on Thursday at 7.30pm.