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''We're going to need to play at our best to advance'' - Australia coach Andrej Lemanis
CANBERRA (Australia) - The Green & Gold of Australia were drawn into perhaps the toughest group of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, and they know they have to play nothing short of their best.
"We're going to need to play at our best to advance, and that’s a good situation to be in," said Australia head coach Andrej Lemanis. "We have to be ready to go from game one and be extremely focused with our preparation."
"WE CAN NOW SET OUR SIGHTS ON DOING WHAT WE NEED TO DO, PREPARATION-WISE, IN ORDER TO WIN A GOLD MEDAL."
The Boomers were drawn into Group H of the World Cup, joining European giants Lithuania, loaded Canada and dangerous Senegal.
The competition will be hosted by China from August 31-September 15, with Australia's Group H games set to be played at the Dongguan Basketball Center in Dongguan city, which is part of Guangdong province.
Australia are the 2nd-highest ranked team in their group. As of the latest FIBA Men's World Ranking, presented by Nike, Lithuania are 6th overall, and Australia are 11th. Canada are 23rd with Senegal in 37th place.
"The reality of the World Cup is that you're going to play against good teams," added Lemanis. "Basketball is such a global game these days that there is no such thing as an easy match-up. The group stage sets up an interesting situation as we will face three different styles, playing teams from Europe, the Americas and Africa. An international tournament is all about being amorphous, and that’s part of the challenge."
#FIBAWC | Boomers head coach Andrej Lemanis, assistant coach Luc Longley, team manager @markbradtke and BA Chair @NedCoten give their thoughts on the @FIBAWC draw and look ahead to August/September: https://t.co/xiHlPpFpXO #GoBoomers #AustraliaGotGame pic.twitter.com/prfWLS9Tvp— Basketball Australia (@BasketballAus) March 18, 2019
Lemanis expects Lithuania to be bannered by NBA standouts Domantas Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas, while Canada may potentially field a full 12-man roster of pure NBA talent led by Andrew Wiggins, Jamal Murray and Kelly Olynyk. Senegal won't be slouches, either, especially as Gorgui Dieng expected to suit up.
The Boomers, of course, won't just roll over. Like Canada, Australia can potentially put a 12-man team together composed exclusively of NBA players. Ben Simmons, Aron Baynes, Patty Mills and Joe Ingles are but a few of the Aussies currently plying their trade in the Association, and it stands to reason all of them will be available for the World Cup.
All those aside, coach Lemanis knows it'll be a big challenge awaiting them, but at least for now, they can begin preparations in earnest.
"With the draw having taken place, the World Cup becomes a bit more real for everyone as we can see the path ahead of us," he explained. "We can now set our sights on doing what we need to do, preparation-wise, in order to win a gold medal."
Former national team bulwark and NBA champion Luc Longley echoed Lemanis's sentiments. The burly Boomers assistant coach wants his squad and entire country to embrace the challenge of the World Cup.
"No doubt we have drawn a tough group but there are two ways to cut it," he said. "We can be worried or see it as an opportunity. I choose to look at it as a positive. You have to beat tough teams to win medals and our claws will be sharp when we reach the crossover round."
Amidst all the possibilities swirling in everyone's imagination, Basketball Australia (BA) Chairman Ned Coten feels like the coming World Cup will be one for the books.
"Our overall feeling after attending the Draw is that this will be the most impressive World Cup ever," said Coten. "It is evident FIBA are going to every length to ensure this tournament will be the best possible showcase for our sport. The venues, technology, support from the Chinese community and hospitality programs for all federations are world-class."
Even location is one detail that hasn't escaped the Boomers, with Boomers team manager Mark Bradtke expecting to see their supporters fly out to Southeast China in droves to see their national team in action.
"The location of our group games is closer to home than some of the other possible cities so we are pleased," Bradtke explained. "We will now work closely with FIBA to learn about the surrounding hotels and venues for where our team will be staying and playing."
Australia will open their World Cup account with fireworks as they face no less than Canada on September 1 followed by Senegal on September 3. They will end their group games against Lithuania on September 5 and hope to advance to the 2nd Round, which is slated to begin on September 7.