Valparaiso trailed by 2 points. Kevin Van Wijk rebounded a missed Green Bay free throw and got the ball to Ryan Broekhoff with 5 seconds left.
And then this happened;
If you’d never heard of Ryan Broekhoff before then, you could be forgiven. But it certainly helped create a name for the lanky kid from Frankston as he led the Valpo Crusaders to the NCAA Tournament.
Two years on and after a couple solid seasons with Besiktas in Turkey, a strong showing at the World Cup last year in Spain and a recent Summer League stint with the Denver Nuggets, Broekhoff is making a name for himself on a global level.
Australian fans who’ve not had much of a chance to see him play will get to know the Hoff next weekend as the Boomers take on the New Zealand Tall Blacks at a packed-out Rod Laver Arena.
In the Boomers’ four recent warm-up games in Europe, Broekhoff was probably the most reliable contributor for Andrej Lemanis, averaging 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2.3 steals, 1.8 3FGM and .515 FG% overall.
As the team struggled to find consistent ways to score, the Hoff constantly found ways to get himself free in the corners, attack the basket with his solid handle and long arms, and never get rattled.
He’s a very level-headed competitor, controlling the highs and lows of a game and focusing on the task at hand.
Those traits allowed him to have a strong campaign for Besiktas in Turkey last season, averaging 11.5 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, 2.2 3FGM at .450 3FG% (.501 FG% overall) and just 0.9 turnovers in just over 30mpg.
While his Summer League stint was quiet, the confidence he has in his game is something that defines him. Hitting back-to-back threes against Slovenia to ice the Boomers only win on their 4-game tour is testament to that.
And that confidence is why Lemanis seems to have complete faith in him to play big minutes and make big plays for a squad with much higher profile name players.
Broekhoff doesn’t seek the limelight, even amongst teammates.
“He doesn’t make a lot of noise off the court. Literally, his nickname’s Rowdy,” veteran teammate David Andersen told Downtown yesterday.
His game is certainly louder than his personality and that is getting noticed by many.
“Rowdy is the real deal,” Boomers point guard Damian Martin told Downtown. “I have no doubt he will be in the NBA one day. I think the way he plays is very suited to the NBA.”
High praise indeed. But Martin’s not alone in praising Broekhoff’s rapidly improving game.
“He’s been great [with the Boomers],” Andersen said. “I’ve been a fan of him since he started in the program. He’s a really solid guy and he’s just really stepped up over the last year and a half.
“Hopefully he keeps doing what he does and, like you saw the last three or four games, he’s been one of the top scorers for us. He’s deadly as anything on offence and plays great defence and can rebound.”
Rowdy by name, deadly by nature.Broekhoff has taken advantage of the additional workload that has come his way by virtue of Joe Ingles’ absence at the 3-spot. He will likely start there against New Zealand next week given his current form and aggressive mentality.
He’s also found himself on the receiving end of penetrate and pitch plays or post kick-outs where he’s been spotting up on the baseline for wide-open threes. Those looks may have gone to Ingles or Patty Mills if they were playing, but Broekhoff has proven (as he did in Spain last year), that he can hit from range reliably.
In fact, the way the Boomers looked on the European tour, struggling at times to generate offence, look after the ball and make shots consistently, Rowdy was really one of the lone bright spots for Andrej Lemanis and his coaching staff.
“The real bright light out of this whole trip has been Ryan Broekhoff,” Assistant Coach Luc Longley said after their final game in Slovenia. “He’s continued to be a beast.”
“He played a little bit of the four tonight and still dominated,” Longley added.
That ability to play some stretch four comes from his length. At 6’7” but with a 6’9” wingspan, Broekhoff can reach up to stay with bigger opponents, hold his own on the boards, and also finish at the rim past slower defenders.
It gives Lemanis some flexibility, especially when they want to push the pace with a smaller line-up; something they did with tremendous success in that final game.
Confidence is of vital importance following the struggles on the recent tour and the devastating loss of Dante Exum, but it is something that Broekhoff is not lacking at all after his strong European season and Nuggets experience.
Andersen has had a closer look than many at the Hoff’s development away from the national team.
“I’ve seen him professionally in Europe with his team Besiktas. He’s been solid all year and he’s really coming into a really good player. You know, he’s going to be on the map for a while.”
For now, that map has Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena firmly circled on it. However, about an hour’s drive away is somewhere that both Andersen and Broekhoff probably have circled too.
“It’s really good having a fellow Frankston guy out there leading the charge with me,” Andersen said. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen two Frankston boys in the starting five for the Boomers, so that was a nice little notch to do.”Still, a better notch in their respective belts will be helping the Boomers qualify for Rio over the next 10 days.
Andersen has been there before. He’s played in front of packed stadiums all over the world and represented the Boomers many times. Broekhoff though, may be experiencing the weight of a nation’s expectations, and real expectations of a medal run next year, for the first time.
But that’s ok. He’ll continue to focus on the task at hand, quietly letting his game do the talking.
And if the Boomers need a big bucket with time winding down against New Zealand, Broekhoff will be ready to deliver.
He’s done it before for his team. He’ll do it again.