July 25, 2012
The Australian Men's National Basketball Team has yet to claim its place on an Olympic podium. With former Saint Mary's College star Patty Mills and current Gaels standout Matthew Dellavedova manning the backcourt, the "Boomers" have a legitimate shot to return from London with new hardware.
In the Green and Gold's exhibition tour leading up to the Olympics, it seems that Dellavedova is peaking at the right time. The 6-foot-4 guard helped lead the Boomers to a road victory over Tony Parker and the French National Team, including a go-ahead assist to forward Aron Baynes in the closing seconds.
“His contribution was part of the result, he was just very good on Tony Parker defensively," Boomers head coach and San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown said of Dellavedova's performance. "I thought he did a good job of controlling the tempo of the game during the crucial end-of-game moments."
The Games of the XXX Olympiad will be Matthew Dellavedova's first Olympic appearance. Despite a lack of Olympic experience, Dellavedova will play a vital role in the success of the Green and Gold.
"Delly's a big piece of this puzzle," Australian team captain Matt Neilsen said of the Gaels' star.
Dellavedova, the reigning West Coast Conference Player of the Year, is one of two collegiate players competing in the London Games, joining Great Britain and College of Charleston guard Andrew Lawrence.
Dellavedova's rare scenario is similar to what Mills experienced four years ago. When Mills made his first Olympic appearance four years ago in Beijing, he was the only American college player in the field. Dellavedova looks to follow in Mills' footsteps. Mills made the most of his Olympic debut. Mills led the Boomers in scoring in his Olympics debut with 14.2 points per game, including a team high 20-point performance against the United States in group play.
Now an Olympic veteran and team captain, Mills looks to build on his 2008 Olympics. NBA superstar and USA National Team member Chris Paul doesn't think that will be a problem for Mills.
"Patty wasn't in the NBA in '08 and he did an unbelievable job then and he's an even better player now," Paul said. "He's a different player with the national team than he is in the NBA. With the national team, he gets to get loose, get going and be the player that he is."
Mills looks to lead his national team to the Olympic podium for the first time. In an interview with Yahoo!Sports, Mills said, "It's no secret that our goal is to get a medal."
Despite being ranked ninth in the latest FIBA World Basketball Rankings, the Australia seems poised to make an Olympic run. They enter the 2012 London Olympics in Group B alongside Brazil, China, Great Britain, Spain and Russia. The only team that possesses a higher FIBA ranking than the Boomers in Group B is the second-ranked Spanish team, led by Marc and Pau Gasol.
In fact, Australia played two tight games against Spain in recent exhibition games. Mills feels confident that the Boomers have more to give.
"On purpose we didn't play the way that we want to play," Mills said. "We are kind of saving it for the real deal."
If the Australians can perform to their ability in group play, they will put themselves in prime position to advance in the knockout stage and perhaps reach the semifinals. The Boomers have been in that position twice -- the Seoul Olympics of 1988 and the Sydney Games in 2000 -- both resulting in fourth-place finishes.
Behind Saint Mary's own Mills and Dellavedova, this year's team looks to finally bring medals back to their homeland.
"It's not impossible and we believe we can do it," says Mills. "Something no other Boomers side has done before."
Beau Levesque is a redshirt junior basketball player at Saint Mary's who is majoring in sports management with a minor in communication.