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Basketball men believe they can win first medal at Rio Olympics

11 July 2016

BASKETBALL: The 12 players tasked with bringing home Australia’s first Olympic men’s basketball medal have been finalised for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Despite injury Andrew Bogut has been given until the last minute to prove his fitness and play at his third Olympic Games alongside five other players with Olympic experience.

David Andersen will become one of only eight Australian men to compete at four Olympic Games in Rio, Patty Mills and Joe Ingles are off to their third Games while newly crowned NBA champion Matthew Dellavedova and Aron Baynes return after helping the side to 7th at the London 2012 Games.

Chris Goulding, Ryan Broekhoff, Cameron Bairstow, Brock Motum, Kevin Lisch and Damian Martin will make their Olympic debut as the side looks to climb onto the Rio podium.

“We are going to Rio to win a medal,” 2014 NBA Champion Mills said.

“That is our goal and that is what we set out to do and we all believe in it which is obviously key. We all understand it is going to be a very hard task but the belief in each other that we can get it done is very exciting.

“This is certainly one of the strongest teams I’ve been a part of.”

Mills who took the squad out to Uluru recently to bond and give back to a local Indigenous community, has achieved plenty in his basketball career to date but believes there is nothing quite liking wearing the green and gold at the Olympic Games.

“There is no doubt that there is a great sense of pride in representing Australia and this being my third Games I’ve really grown up to understand what it means to be an Olympian.

“I think there is more meaning to this one with the belief and understanding that at these Games we can achieve something great and something that has never been done before.”

While the side spends the majority of the year playing at different corners of the globe, when they come together they know they are a force to be reckoned with.

“I think we had good teams at the two other Games I was a part of but now having six players in this team in the NBA it really makes teams start to think that we are a real threat,” Ingles who has spent two seasons playing with the Utah Jazz in the NBA said.

“It’s an exciting team that has had the core of the team together for a while now. We’ve played together and are used to each other now so not only this Olympics but the future of Australian basketball is looking like there are some pretty exciting times ahead.”

The side, who qualified for Rio after winning the 2015 Oceania Championships, have recently been reunited after another full season of basketball in the USA, Europe and Australia.

“The camp has been really physical with plenty of the guys playing for spots in the team,” continued Ingles.

“It was intense and just what we needed, it got us going in the right direction. Now that the 12 know who they are it gives us the opportunity to really focus on what we are going to do in Rio.”

While the starting five is likely to feature plenty of Olympic and NBA experience, the Australian bench is extremely deep with sharp shooter Goulding getting his chance to shine on the Olympic stage.

“It’s amazing and really overwhelming - there was a little bit of every emotion relief, excitement but then it’s also a bit tough with the teammates that missed out.

“I remember being a  id and watching as much of the Olympics as I could and now it’s a bit surreal to think that in just a couple of weeks I’ll be over there playing in them.”

Goulding has taken his game to another level in recent times flourishing in the NBL while also getting the chance in Italy and Spain.

“Over the past couple of years I’ve really matured as a basketballer and as a person.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have some really good coaches and great people around me that have helped me achieve this goal.

“I’ve now got the chance to speak to the guys who’ve been to a Games before and having heard their experiences I can’t wait to get over there.”

The side’s first match in Rio is less than four weeks away and now the final squad is set they will turn their attention to putting the final touches on their preparation.

“We have a couple of games now in Melbourne and then we head to South America where we will have a few more games just to really tune up, get in sync with the team and ensure we are firing on all cylinders for our first game.

“We want to go and win the gold medal, that’s why you go to tournaments and why you play the game.”

Australia will play their first match on Day 1 (August 6) of Rio 2016 against France. They then take on Serbia on Day 3 (August 8), face the USA on Day 5 (August 10), play China on Day 7 (August 12) and round out the group stage against Venezuela on Day 9 (August 14).

The men’s basketball team has gone close to winning an Olympic medal on three occasions as they finished fourth at the Seoul 1988, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 Games.

These 12 athletes take the overall 2016 Australian Olympic Team to 344 from 24 sports, with an expected final Team of 410 athletes. Complete biographies on all selected athletes here>>> 

Matt Bartolo

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