The Australian men’s team has become much stronger and Australia, who have never won a medal in international basketball competition, are hoping current NBA players like Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills and Aron Baynes can take the national team further than it ever has before.
But if Australia is to have success in Rio and beyond, it could well be thanks to a young group of tyro’s descended from a group of NBL Legends which can delivers us Olympic gold.
Players like Dave Simmons’ son Ben, Bruce Bolden’s son Jonah or Kendal ”Tiny” Pinder’s son Keanu all are important parts of the Australian Junior Men’s program. But possibly the crème de la crème of this talented group could be Dante Exum.
Dante, whose father Cecil who won an NCAA championship as a teammate of Michael Jordan at North Carolina before playing 197 games for Victorian based NBL teams Melbourne, North Melbourne and Geelong.
Currently in Prague to participate in the 2013 FIBA Under 19 World Championships Exum is ready to make his name known on the world’s stage.
Last year Exum developed as a clear leader on the junior men’s team averaging 17 points and 4 rebounds before losing to the United States in the Gold Medal game of the Under 17 World Championships.
“This year first goal is to put ourselves in a good position to win the quarter final. A good result would be to make the semi-final. A great result would be to make the final”
“We need to play as a team and all play great defence. These teams have some very good players but if we can make them shoot tough shots and no offensive boards… A Gold or Silver medal is possible”
The World Championship will be keenly watched by many NBA scouts, many with an eye on Exum. Standing at 6 feet, 6 inches (198cm) his long limbs, ability to get to the rim and ability to play both the one and the two guard has scouts salivating.
Dante knows he needs to develop his outside shooting to really impress those looking on.
“I have lifted my game in that area a lot from last year but I still want to get past what is seen as good and become known as a great shooter. I’m getting up as many shots as I can every day to get that consistency going. I want to shoot above 40% from the three point line… that is my main goal”.
Exum is touted as being a likely lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft but whether he decides to play for Indiana, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Louisville or one of the many other teams salivating over the young guards skills or to simply develop his game in Australia for the next 12 months is a decision he has yet to make.
“It is a big jump going from the AIS where I’m not playing regular games. But if the opportunity is a good one I’ll take it. It has always been one of my goals to play college basketball and use it as a stepping stone into a professional league”.
Staying in Australia also has its benefits. It allows him to be more easily available for Boomers camps and possibly be selected to play against New Zealand in qualifying games for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Exum made history in 2011 becoming the youngest player ever to participate in an Australian Boomers camp when he was 15.
After recently going head to head with many of the world’s most talented junior players at Nike Hoops Summit in April the World Championships will provide another opportunity to go up against the world’s best in full view of NBA scouts.
“After the Hoop Summit, my recruiting for college picked up a whole lot,” Exum said. “I had new colleges contacting me and colleges I had already expressed interest showing even more interest.”
Following his play at the Hoops Summit, Exum rose to No. 18 in the 2014 class and to No. 3 in the point guard rankings on 247Sports.com.
Dante Exum Highlights from 2013 Nike Hoops Summit
“At the Nike Hoop Summit I went up against Jabari Parker and Andrew Harrison and felt I could hold my own. So it definitely was a confidence boost knowing I can play against some of those top high school players.”
One year from now Dante Exum will be working out for a number of NBA teams as the 2014 NBA draws near whether his path to that moment includes Indiana University, Kentucky University or any college ball at all is still unsure.
“Visiting Indiana was a good experience. Being able to witness their training, school life, the campus and the game time atmosphere was amazing. Indiana has been one of the first schools to recruit me hard so that is why I decided to visit them first”
Cecil Exum who knows a thing or two about college basketball has made sure Dante will make his decision based on what is right for him.
“If I go to college I want to be able to make an impact as a freshman. To have a coach that will help me develop both on court and off court… and to win. My Dad says I need to choose the best situation for myself where I will be happy, not choose a school just because of their history”.