No cameras. No coaches. No refs. This was basketball in its purest form.
Just days before the Australian Boomers gather in Melbourne for a gruelling ten day camp, four members of Andrej Lemanis’ squad spent Friday morning scrimmaging against a group of Melbourne United reserves.
Olympic preparation in the raw.
Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz), Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs), David Andersen (ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne) and Ryan Broekhoff (Lokomotiv Kuban) have been working out together in Melbourne over the past few days, along with fellow squad member Chris Goulding (Melbourne United) and Ingles’ Utah teammate Dante Exum who is unavailable for Rio.
The group, minus Goulding and Exum, capped off their informal mini-camp with this morning’s scrimmage at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.
Joining the Boomers on the ‘light’ squad – enjoying the basketball experience of his life – was Luke Van-Rijn, a 6-5 guard from South Australia who currently balls at Mars Hill University, a Division II school in North Carolina.
If you can picture it, Van-Rijn was the Billy Hoyle selection of the scrimmage (“we’ll let you pick our teammate, you can pick anybody out here”), but impressively held his own.
“I was just trying to not mess up,” Van-Rijn half-joked afterwards.
Mission accomplished. Dude now has a killer story to tell the boys.
“I’m definitely going to tell a few people about this.”
Leading the ‘dark’ squad were Melbourne United’s Nate Tomlinson, Kyle Adnam, Owen Odigie and Majok Majok. They were joined by former NBL player Bennie Lewis Jnr (Frankson Blues, SEABL).
United’s coaching staff watched on from the sidelines, as well as Australian College of Basketball coaches Al Westover, Rohan Short and Simon Giovannoni.
No Lemanis. No Longley. No X’s. No O’s.
Westover, a two-time NBL championship winning head coach, was his usual boisterous self on the sidelines.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Westy yelled after Majok threw down a two-handed breakaway dunk.
“Haven’t seen any of that from you, Joe!”
The banter, of course, bounced back and forth.
“We give each other plenty of s–t,” Westy explained.
“We beat him out of a national championship in U14s back in the day,” he added, referring to his son’s Melbourne Tigers junior team whom he coached.
“Joe always brings up the Dragons. I tell him we’re 1-1.”
The smack-talk continued during a break in play.
“Where are the highlights, Joe?” Westover asked.
“You serious? Look at the squad we’ve got,” came the reply.
Pointing at Mills: “The smallest guy in the world.”
Then Andersen: “A guy who can’t jump over a piece of paper.”
“And I’m right behind him,” Ingles laughed.
“We’re not about the highlights.”
What they are about, though, is winning an Olympic medal and this core group is leaving no stone unturned in their mission to achieve it.
For Ingles, the glue-guy who organised the scrimmage, that may mean missing the birth of his twins. His wife is 33 weeks pregnant and the Rio games are now only 5 weeks away.
“I’m very, very lucky that my wife is a sportswoman herself,” Ingles told SEN radio yesterday.
“Any other year or any other situation I would just pull out and be here for her. But being an Olympic year she understands and knows what it means to me to be a part of that team.”
For Andersen, it’s about giving his ageing body very little rest after winning a French League title just four weeks ago.
The veteran big man helped ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne fight back from a 0-2 hole in the best-of-five Grand Final series and is determined to beat the odds in Rio as well.
This morning’s scrimmage was a welcome part of that process.
“Getting up and down, non-stop, it doesn’t get any better than this,” Andersen said afterwards.
The play was haphazard, as scrimmages usually are, but the touch is clearly there for our nation’s best players.
Ingles broke a few ankles with his crafty left-to-right crossover and smooth step-back jumper, while Mills was raining triples with his trademark quick-trigger pull-up.
Broekhoff’s all-court game was also on display, as was Andersen’s versatile inside-outside weaponry.
For the ‘dark’ squad, Adnam and Tomlinson particularly impressed. ‘Blondie’, as United coach Dean Demopoulos refers to Adnam, refused to take a backward step as he wheeled and dealed his way to the basket.
The Boomers, reeling from the recent injury sustained by Andrew Bogut, have added big men Daniel Kickert (Brisbane Bullets) and Aleks Maric (Sydney Kings) to the squad for next week’s camp in Melbourne.