The Illawarra Hawks centre was notably excluded from the squad that was announced on Monday for August’s Rio Olympics. The group features seven NBA players, Ben Simmons, and thirteen guys who played in the NBL in 2015-16, but not Ogilvy.
He averaged 16.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, shot 54.5 percent from the field and played every Hawks game in 2015-16.
“He was clearly the best centre as far as consistency and performance went in the NBL, so I expected that he would certainly make that first squad,” said Shane Heal, who went to four Olympics.
Similarly, Ogilvy’s Coach in Illawarra didn’t necessarily agree with his star centre’s omission.
“I’m extremely surprised that AJ wasn’t included in a squad of 26 players,” Rob Beveridge told Downtown the day the squad was announced.
“AJ has been an absolute pleasure to coach and had a tremendous year. I’m extremely disappointed for him not to be included and given a chance to prove his worth.”
So exactly who was included ahead of Ogilvy that’s so surprising?
The NBL centres selected in the squad in favour of Ogilvy were Daniel Kickert, Angus Brandt and Nathan Jawai.
Jawai is a Boomers veteran and showed in Game 1 of the NBL Grand Final series how valuable he can be. Kickert, more of a stretch four, has proven international experience and also made the All-NBL First team alongside Ogilvy.
It’s Brandt’s selection that has raised a few eyebrows.
Brandt finished the season strong for Sydney, but really only played a major role once Julian Khazzouh went down with injury.
You could argue Lemanis may be blooding some younger talent by giving them camp experience with the Boomers with an eye to the future. Brandt along with Mitch Norton, Mitch Creek and Clint Steindl would certainly fit that profile.
It’s here where some are pondering the blurry line that distinguishes Lemanis’ role as coach of the National Team and his involvement with the returning Brisbane Bullets. Perhaps that line is clearer than people think.
In any event, Ogilvy has missed out.
Ogilvy declined an interview with Downtown other than to say “congrats to all 26 players who made the squad and best of luck in Rio.”
It’s not the first time he’s missed out on making the team, having been cut ahead of the 2012 London Olympics (when Lemanis was an assistant to Boomers coach Brett Brown), but at least then he was in the squad.
Andrew Gaze, a five-time Olympian, was surprised by Ogilvy’s omission given the centre’s form this season and the number of players who were chosen for the squad.
“I think it would’ve been a long shot for him to get there [the Olympics], but you always want to have that chance.”
In a News Corp article by Boti Nagy, Lemanis said there was “an advantage for people who have been a part of the program.”
“At the end of the day, the selection committee, which is the full coaching staff, had to make the call and AJ ended up missing out,” Lemanis said.
The squad of 26 won’t train together before the squad is reduced to 16 for a selection camp from July 5-10. The final team will consist of 12 players.
In the Basketball Australia media release announcing the squad, Lemanis mentioned the criteria the selectors will use in reducing the group to 16.
“It’s a case of the selection staff taking into account previous history with the Boomers, current form, injuries, team balance and chemistry and putting all that together,” Lemanis said in the media release.
Team balance will play a big part in the final selection and both Gaze and Heal pointed to the depth of big men Australia has as an impediment to Ogilvy making the final team this time around. Andrew Bogut, Aron Baynes, Cameron Bairstow, David Andersen and Aleks Maric are among those he likely would’ve been competing with, had he made the 26.
“The difficult thing for AJ right now is that he’s not a stretch four, because he doesn’t hit from the perimeter, and the question marks would be is he tough enough and strong enough to be able to hold down a five-man position in international basketball against NBA fives,” said Heal, who coached Ogilvy at the Sydney Kings in 2013-14.
Valid points indeed, however as far as Ogilvy is concerned, chemistry seems to be the elephant in the room when looking at those selection criteria.
“I assume that Andrej [Lemanis] and the coaching staff, they’ve already had experiences with him in the past and have made a judgement and decided to go in a different direction,” Gaze also said.
Just what those experiences were is likely the real reason for Ogilvy’s omission.
So, where does all this leave Ogilvy? Will the Boomers omission impact his decision to stay in/leave the NBL?
“It will be interesting to see if he stays here in Australia or goes back to Europe now that he was excluded,” Beveridge told Downtown.
“I don’t know what more he could have done.”
Gaze said the squad shows there’s tremendous depth in Australian basketball talent, but also noted there are some in the 26 whose chances of getting to Brazil are remote. Nothing is certain, however.
“There’s also been quite a number of times when players have come through that started out with most people thinking they don’t have much chance that eventually get through,” Gaze said.
Heal called it a great squad and highlighted the ages of Australia’s best players, the familiarity in the group and the build-up over the last four-to-six years as reasons for optimism.
“There’s no doubt this is our best chance to make that top four since we did in 2000,” Heal said, “and probably Australia’s greatest ever chance of winning a medal.”
And that’s with the NBL’s best centre taking no part.
Editors note: This story has been adjusted from its original version, published on March 10, to include Ogilvy’s statement as it was originally provided to Downtown.