The Australian Boomers have found out who stands between them and the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
The Boomers have drawn the Philippines, Japan and Chinese Taipei as their opponents in Group B so a Boomers side filled with NBL talent is expected to take on those three nations in home and away clashes starting in November this year.
The Philippines and Chinese Taipei still have to qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup, which is in Lebanon in August, to take up their positions, otherwise whoever qualifies in their place will inherit those places.
But if the group stays as it is the Boomers will take their NBL talents to Japan and the Philippines, two nations with vast basketball fan bases and impressive national teams while Chinese Taipei also has a proud history in the sport.
Japan’s league has improved noticeably in the past decade with former NBL coaches like Tom Wiseman, Shawn Dennis and Al Westover leading teams at various stages.
The Philippines were one of the most exciting, high scoring sides at the 2014 FIBA World Cup where they were led by former NBA big man Andray Blatche and he is still expected to be part of their side during qualifying.
FIBA has yet to release the fixture for the Boomers six group games but the three “windows” for those games will be in November 2017, February 2018 and June 2018 with two games to be played in each 10-day window.
Basketball Australia will need to find three venues for home games during the first round with NBL stadiums expected to figure prominently although BA could use former NBL stadiums like Hobart’s Derwent Entertainment Centre or the AIS Arena in Canberra.
The Boomers will need to finish in the top three of Group B to progress to the second round where they will carry over their points and then face three other nations from another group.
The top seven countries in Asian qualifying will make the 2019 World Cup along with host nation China.
Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis has already said he won’t be able to call up his NBA stars for most windows and he is reticent to call in European based stars due to excessive travel needed to come back to this region.
So Lemanis, who also coaches the Brisbane Bullets, is set to call up NBL stars for the first two windows while the June window could see some of his overseas stars available or more usage of NBL talent.
Rio Olympians David Andersen, Chris Goulding (both Melbourne United), Cameron Bairstow (Brisbane Bullets), Kevin Lisch (Sydney Kings) and Damian Martin (Perth Wildcats) could all see serious minutes if selected in the early windows.
While Lemanis has previously added Cameron Gliddon (Cairns Taipans), Brad Newley (Kings), Nathan Jawai (Taipans), Adam Gibson, Daniel Kickert (Bullets) and Aleks Maric (free agent) to his Boomers’ squads.
Considering their form last season Nathan Sobey, Daniel Johnson and Mitch Creek (both Adelaide 36ers), Jesse Wagstaff (Perth Wildcats), Mitch Norton, Nicholas Kay and AJ Ogilvy (Illawarra Hawks) should all receive a close look as could other emerging players like Todd Blanchfield, Jason Cadee (both Kings), Majok Majok (Melbourne United) and even Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence players like Sam Froling.
The New Zealand Breakers are expected to fill the majority of the New Zealand Tall Blacks roster along with new Perth signing Corey Webster.
The Tall Blacks will have their work cut out for them after drawing China, Korea and Hong Kong in Group A.
Groups C includes Syria, Jordan, India and Lebanon while Group D has Iraq, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Iran.
China and Korea will push the Tall Blacks to the wire although Hong Kong, who still has to qualify for its place, is still developing it’s elite players and should be comfortably handled.
The likes of Mika Vukona, Kirk Penney and Thomas Abercrombie will lead the Tall Blacks along with Webster.
Australia and New Zealand are both still in the Oceania region but their qualifying path now runs through Asia.
If both countries make the World Cup then the highest finisher will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 while the other country will need to finish in the top 24 of the 32 competing nations to make the final play in tournaments in 2019.
Lemanis and the Boomers are expected to host a training camp in Australia in July for their NBL based Boomers as he prepares the side for the Asia Cup tournament in Lebanon in August then the first qualifiers in November and February.