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Dellavedova doesn't want Australia to be fourth anymore
CANBERRA (Australia) - For many teams, placing among the top four at the FIBA Basketball World Cup would be a milestone, but for Matthew Dellavedova, it's a bitter reminder of the Boomers' misfortunes.
After all, Australia very nearly could have challenged not just for a spot on the podium but for the top spot, with heart-breaking defeats to Spain in the Semi-Final, 95-88, and France in the battle for third place, 67-59.
"We had higher expectations, but we had some tough games against Spain and against France, and we finished in the fourth place, which is the spot where nobody wants to end up in," Dellavedova recalled.
"I think that we had a pretty good tournament outside of those last two games, and that we did show that we can compete against the best teams in the world. We didn't reach our goal, which was to at least win a medal, but we have been improving and gained some more experience in international competitions."
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The Boomers had an auspicious start at the World Cup, pocketing six straight victories, including wins against elite sides Canada, Lithuania and even France in the Second Round. For a time, it seemed like erstwhile head coach Andrej Lemanis's boys could do no wrong and were set for a once-in-a-lifetime run.
"We wanted to have the best start possible, and we did," Dellavedova said. "We did beat three very solid teams and were able to finish in the first spot of our group. It gave us some more confidence, and we did have very good games, such as the one again Lithuania, for example. But playing in a World Cup is very intense, and this year's tournament was very open, as many teams could fight for a medal spot. We finished fourth - it's frustrating, but we have now to focus on what's coming next, the Tokyo Olympics."
As sour as the final result was for Australia, Dellavedova still cherishes his experience in China, in no small part because of the overwhelming support that their fans hurled at the national team, both those who came all the way from down under and the locals who cheered for the Green & Yellow.
"That was amazing to see our fans, but also Chinese fans, that cheered for us," Dellavedova remembered. "When you play away from home, it feels good to feel the love of our fans and to see Australian flags and people dressed up with yellow and green, that is so great to be honest. It's always a pleasure when you see people with inflated kangaroos, flashy yellow jackets or costumes and being loud cheering for us. We always want to do our best for them, and try to make them have a good time at our games and be proud of our team."
Another major chance for Australia's fans to once more prop the team's spirits will be in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where Australia have already qualified. The Boomers will see action in the Olympics for the 15th time, and they will look to finish better than their last result.
You guessed it, fourth place in Rio 2016.
"That is a great satisfaction to have reached that spot for next summer, so we don't have to worry about playing a FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament to get to Tokyo 2020," Dellavedova explained. "Playing in the Olympics is always fantastic, and the next ones are going to be not that far from home, which is great. I am really looking forward to them, and we were so happy when we punched our ticket to next summer's tournament. All of us are very excited, and as the season is going, we are going to talk about it more and more, that is for sure."
Delly and his compatriots have never medaled at the Olympics, and finally bringing home that hardware is at the top of their priorities.
"We have been improving a lot in the last couple of years and we want to win something, or at least come back home with a better spot than the fourth of a competition," he said. "We have huge expectations, a big ambition. We want to keep making the Boomers shine at international level, and next year's tournament is another great opportunity to do so."
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Delly also hopes more of their top tier talents will be available to play for the national team, especially those who missed the World Cup for various reasons like Ben Simmons, Jonah Bolden, Thon Maker, Dante Exum and Josh Green.
"Those young guys are going to bring their talent to the national team, and seeing that all of them have been growing in the last couple of years is very exciting for Australian basketball," Delly shared. "The ones in the NBA are doing great, and Josh Green is one of the best college players in the country, so he is also a young talent that is stepping up his game and can reach a very high level. Ben, Jonah, Thon, and Dante are still young players, but they impact the game and they can help us a lot, that is for sure."
"We still have some time before the start of the training camp next year, but that would be amazing to have a big pool of players and that everyone stays healthy and excited to help the Boomers," he added. "I am excited about the future, excited for Australian basketball and the national team."