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''We want to fight for the top spots and go back home with a medal'' - Australia's Joe Ingles
CANBERRA (Australia) - Australia are expected to be loaded for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, but even veteran Joe Ingles knows the competition is going to be quite tough.
The Boomers were drawn into Group H of the World Cup, joining European contender Lithuania, up-and-coming African side Senegal and a Canadian team expected to be stacked with NBA talent.
"WE KNOW WE CAN COMPETE AGAINST THE BEST TEAMS IN THE WORLD."
"It’s a very, very competitive group and every team has the possibility to go through to the next round, so we will have to be ready," said the Utah Jazz swingman, who was in action for the Boomers at both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. "There is plenty of talent in all of the teams, and even if I know less about Senegal than the other teams, they are going to be very good and competitive. It’s going to be a great tournament, and we're all very excited and looking forward to competing on the world stage once again."
As good as Australia's foes in Group H will be, though, they are likely to be the favorites to finish among the top two teams and advance to the next round, owing much to the fact that, like the Canadians, the Boomers can potentially fill all 12 roster spots with current NBA players like Ben Simmons, Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker.
"It's such an amazing time for Australian basketball with so many players who can have a spot in the senior national team, and it’s great for the coach and the staff to have so many options to make the final team," Ingles said. "We have a lot of young guys, a lot of very good veterans and we can build a very, very competitive team for this summer and for years to come."
The 31-year-old was also quick to share how impressed he was with the Boomers who held up the fort in the Asian Qualifiers, winning 10 of their 12 games en route to finishing with the best record in Group F and clinching their place at China 2019.
"I really liked what I saw during the Qualifiers, having plenty of guys stepping up and achieving the mission to qualify Australia for the World Cup," Ingles stressed. "They deserve a lot of credit and it's so good for us to know we can count on a lot of players to make the final team."
Having said that, Ingles knows that qualifying to the World Cup isn't the ceiling for Australia. Given the national team's potential make-up, he is well aware that expectations will be sky high not just from their fans but perhaps even more so from the team and players themselves.
"We want to fight for the top spots and go back home with at least a medal, that would be so great," he shared. "The battle is going to be tough, as plenty of teams can reach the top three spots, but we know we can compete against the best teams in the world. We have been waiting for so long to bring something back home, a trophy or a medal from the World Cup or the Olympics, and we really want to make a great campaign in China this summer."
Aside from the depth of Australia's talent pool, however, another significant edge of the Boomers according to Ingles is their team unity, especially with so many seasoned veterans like Dellavedova and Andrew Bogut likely carrying the Green & Gold anew in China.
"The team is the most important thing, and our unity and camaraderie are among our strengths, that is for sure," he explained. "We have been in the team for so long with some of the guys, and we always work to make the best chemistry and to have every player feel like they are part of the family. I think that it is very important to keep a unity in a team, because you know that is a great strength to win. It’s so great to have this kind of great environment in the national team, and we are very proud of this unity and camaraderie."
"IT'S SUCH AN AMAZING TIME FOR AUSTRALIAN BASKETBALL WITH SO MANY PLAYERS WHO CAN HAVE A SPOT IN THE SENIOR TEAM... WE CAN BUILD A VERY, VERY COMPETITIVE TEAM FOR THIS SUMMER AND FOR YEARS TO COME."
Ingles is considered one of the elder statesmen on Australia's national team, having debuted for the Boomers way back in 2008 and already playing on so many world-level competitions like the aforementioned World Cups in Turkey and Spain as well as the three Olympic tournaments (Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro). He knows what to expect in terms of the atmosphere at this level, and is counting on that fan support to help raise their spirits and level of play.
"I'm sure the crowd is going to be very good in China this summer," he said. "We're expecting a lot of Australian fans too as the trip isn't that far, compared to the other places where we played international competitions in the last couple of years. China is a great basketball country and the fans are going to be amazing. The atmosphere in 2008 was very good and it's going to be great this summer too."
Australia's World Cup campaign tips off in a top-biller as they face no less than Canada on September 1. They follow that with a clash opposite Senegal two days later before closing out their group games against Lithuania on September 5. All of their Group H fixtures will be played at the Dongguan Basketball Center.