06 - 20
August 2016
Brendan JOYCE (Coach)
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Opals size up Olympic foes

CANBERRA (2016 Rio Olympics) - Australia coach Brendan Joyce has made the most of his 2015.

There was the important bit of business known as the FIBA Women's Oceania Championship back in August, a two-game series against New Zealand that the Opals won to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

There was also a summer tour to Europe where the Australians played against Serbia, Italy and Spain, as well as a home friendly series against Japan.

All of the games were important.

"One of the reasons why we went over there (to Europe), and I don't mind saying this, was to scout them (before the Olympics)," Joyce said to FIBA.com.

"I think I got a good scout on them."

While Serbia won the EuroBasket Women to clinch a spot in Brazil, the Spaniards were one of four teams to claim a berth for the 2016 FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQTW), something they did by finishing third.

"I think I'm a better coach after playing against them," Joyce said.

The Opals boss was impressed by Serbia.

Serbia (SRB) won the EuroBasket Women

"On their night, they can hit shots, play with a lot of flamboyance," Joyce said.

"They executed their sets very well.

"I remember they led the USA for a long time their game at the Worlds (2014 FIBA Women's World Championship).

"I think if you look at it on paper, though, Spain and France are the most dangerous teams.

"There is more talent there from a depth point of view.

"But if Serbia hit everything, they're dangerous."

France finished runners-up to Serbia at the EuroBasket Women and will also play at the OQTW.

Japan made a very good impression on the Australia coach.

Point guard Asami Yoshida (JPN) is vital for her team

"We helped Japan, they helped us," Joyce said of the friendlies.

"I got to know the coaches very well.

"We played them pretty physical and the game was pretty quick. We like to play quick now.

"I just think the competition level helped us and I have no doubt that it helped them."

Japan followed up their series with the Opals with another against the Tall Ferns before winning the FIBA Asia Women's Championship.

They won the title, and qualified for the Olympics, with a resounding 85-50 win over a China team that is led by former Australia coach Tom Maher.

"They just smashed China," Joyce said.

"They're very good, didn't have the big kid from Seattle (Ramu Tokashiki) and I was pretty impressed.

"We played each other in a highly competitive spirit.

"I think they're going to be really dangerous, too.

"On a given night, their quickness, aggression, attacking the rim - their style of play.

"What I saw against China, I saw the Final, China couldn't stop them. They were getting up the floor quickly."

Japan did not have their dynamo point guard Asami Yoshida at the 2014 FIBA Women's World Championship in Turkey because of injury and struggled.

She returned in Wuhan to help the Japanese capture a second straight Asian crown.

Tokashiki also left WNBA side Seattle in time to play for Japan at the FIBA Asia Women's Championship.

"Japan aren't as big but they're really quick and attacking whereas China are big but they really had trouble with the quickness," Joyce said.

"The transition cut them to pieces.

"China had trouble defending them."

Joyce does believe that China still have a good shot of making it to Rio via the OQTW.

"In the World Championship, I think a lot of the European style suits China, the half-court sets playing against Europeans, but if you come up against the USA or Japan, they want to play fast," he said.

"But don't write China off. They maybe have a wakeup call and will get through. Somebody's got to get through."

A team that Australia did not face was the United States, the side that beat the Opals in the Semi-Finals of the FIBA Women's World Championship.

Joyce says he did not need to play them to know that not much has changed for the USA.

The defending Olympic and world champions remain the team to beat.

"You look at the depth of th USA team, the talent not only now but what's coming through," Joyce said.

"Elena Delle Donne, she had a fantastic year.

Check me out tonight on @NBATV at 6:30pm CT during #GameTime with @matt_winer

A photo posted by Elena Delle Donne (@de11edonne) on

"I love Maya Moore and the way she plays, the best player in the world in my opinion. Brittney (Griner) is improving.

"For us to beat them, we have to be at our best and for everything to go right."

Joyce isn't ruling that out.

"That's a possibility," he said.

"Realistically they're pretty good and talented but the way I look at it, I've coached plenty of teams with less talent (than the opponent) and won championships."