Australians pumped up about Oceania series at Rod Laver Arena
MELBOURNE (2015 FIBA Oceania Championship/2015 FIBA Oceania Women's Championship) - Australia's Boomers will be nearly fully stocked with leading players when they square off against the New Zealand Tall Blacks later this year in the FIBA Oceania Championship.
The Opals, meanwhile, will welcome Liz Cambage back to the fold for their FIBA Oceania Women's Championship showdown with the Tall Ferns.
That is the big news coming from Down Under, with Basketball Australia announcing that both of its senior national teams will play in a double-header in Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena on 15 August.
The women will then play in the second leg at Tauranga, New Zealand, on 17 August and the Boomers will square off against the Kiwis one day later in Wellington.
The expectation for the Boomers is that Pat Mills, Aron Baynes (both San Antonio Spurs), Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland Cavaliers), Dante Exum (Utah Jazz), Andrew Bogut (Golden State Warriors) and Cameron Bairstow (Chicago Bulls) will be on the roster.
Joe Ingles (Utah) is the only NBA-based player to rule himself out of the two-game series that serves as a qualifying event for the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Cambage, who missed the FIBA Women's World Championship in Turkey after rupturing her Achilles tendon a week before the tournament, is confident of being able to play for the Opals.
Bogut, because of injuries, has not played for the Boomers since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The Melbourne-born center could not have picked a better venue to make his return.
"I am thrilled to be playing for the Airbnb Boomers in front of our home crowd in Melbourne," he said in a Basketball Australia statement.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for Aussie fans to get behind our national teams and I urge everyone to come out to Rod Laver Arena and support us with the passion we know the basketball community has."
Along with Bogut, Dellavedova and Bairstow are the only other Australians whose teams are alive in the NBA playoffs.
One player whose season has drawn to a close, Exum, had a successful rookie campaign with Utah.
He is now focusing on having a strong summer with the national team.
"I love putting on the Australian jersey and playing in front of a hometown crowd in Melbourne will be extra special," he said.
It’s always such a great experience to play with these guys – we're all mates and we’re in this together. - Exum
Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis is looking forward to building on last year's FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The Australians, despite the absence of several key players, had some terrific performances.
Lemanis attended a press conference where it was announced the Rod Laver Arena is to be the venue for the first leg of the FIBA Oceania Championship.
He said: "Like a lot of the national teams, the opportunities to spend time together and play games are limited, and so in order to help our preparation for the Rio Olympics, we need to spend time together and play games.
"And this is an opportunity to do that.
"It's well deserved our guys who are plying their trade overseas and representing all of us on the international stage get the opportunity to come and play at a venue like this, and play in front of the Australian public."
There is going to be plenty of excitement surrounding the women's team, which finished third at last year's World Championship.
She is geared up for the return.
"Since being forced out of the game for so long, having this to work towards has given me an extra boost and I can’t wait to get back on court with the girls," she said.
"I've played much of my career overseas, so having this opportunity to play at Rod Laver Arena means a lot.
"The best memory that I have of playing basketball was when the Opals played Brazil in Bendigo in the lead up to the London Olympics - I have a feeling this might just top that."