Ryan Broekhoff (AUS)
to read

Players like Broekhoff make a big difference for Australia

MELBOURNE (2016 Rio Olympics) - Australia will not be short of weapons when they show up in Rio de Janeiro next summer for the 2016 Olympics.

They have players known the world over like Pat Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles and Andrew Bogut.

Each plays big minutes in the NBA.

What will help make the Boomers dangerous for their opponents in Rio are the lesser known entities.

There are plenty of players in their squad that are competing at or near the highest level of the game.

One big talent is Ryan Broekhoff of Lokomotiv Kuban, a 2.01m forward.

Broekhoff is both feisty and skillful.

And he's making his mark in the VTB United League and the Turkish Airlines Euroleague.

Broekhoff has a nose for the basket and makes plays, like he did at the start of Lokomotiv Kuban's game at Zalgiris Kaunas last week.

With the shot clock about to expire, the 25-year-old chased a ball down near midcourt, turned and shot.

He banked in a three-pointer to silence the home crowd.

Broekhoff went on to score 13 points and grab six rebounds as Lokomotiv Kuban prevailed in the encounter, 76-74, to improve to 2-0 in the Euroleague.

All of the coaches he has played for have liked the intangibles that Broekhoff has brought to the court.

It's like that in Krasnodar with Lokomotiv, too.

He not only executes the game plan but collects loose balls, scraps and makes play after play.

It's why Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis brought Broekhoff into the squad for the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship, took him to the FIBA Basketball World Cup last year and had him in the team that swept New Zealand in this year's FIBA Oceania Championship to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

In the first game against New Zealand this summer, a 71-59 Australia win in Melbourne, Broekhoff took just a couple of shots and didn't score but still played 28 minutes, illustrating perfectly that a player's value needs to be assessed by his overall contribution and not by the number of points he puts on the board.

Australia had plenty of other scoring options.

Broekhoff had seven rebounds, a couple of assists and played mean defense.

In the 89-79 Game 2 triumph, he played 24 minutes and made both of his shots inside the arc while collecting six rebounds.

The success against the Tall Blacks is something that Broekhoff is going to remember for a long time and not just because of the Olympic qualification.

"It isn't often that we get to play in Australia in front of our friends and family, as well as the nation as a whole," he wrote in his blog for rio2016.olympics.com.au.

"For me personally it was a big moment as I am from Frankston, which is only an hour away (from Melbourne) and knowing a lot of friends and family were coming to watch me, some for the first time since I was a youngster playing juniors.

"There were quite a few in the group from Melbourne so I am sure it was just as big for them.

"...running out to the huge roar of the crowd and seeing Rod Laver (Arena) jam packed was unbelievable.

"An amazing sense of pride and honour hit us and to have the kind of support we did in the stands is something we will all cherish forever."

Broekhoff is still young in his Boomers career and is getting a wonderful opportunity to learn from the veterans like Bogut.

"Bogut was inspirational in Game Two," Broekhoff wrote.

"He stayed back in Melbourne after Game One to have his back assessed and was unsure if he would be right for Game Two, but he came out and dominated at both ends and was a big reason we were able to win."

While New Zealand will have to go into a FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in an attempt to book a spot in the Summer Games for the first time since 2004, Australia already know they'll be in Brazil.

"Amazing, we had qualified for the Rio Olympics in 2016!" Broekhoff said.

"The goal we set when we came together had been completed and celebrating that was special for us."

Australia will certainly be a contender to reach the podium, something the men's team has not done at an Olympics before.