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2008 Men's Olympic Basketball Preview: Australia

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This is the 5th preview in a series here at Green Bandwagon and At The Hive, as we anxiously await for Olympic basketball to get under way. You can check both of our sidebars for the archive or simply click on these links: China, Greece, Russia, and Argentina. Catch Australia here today and head over to At The Hive tomorrow for the next installment.

Population:
20,600,856

Size in Comparison to a US State: A little smaller than the US, minus Alaska and Hawaii.

Suffrage: Universal and compulsory at 18.

Interesting Fact: Utah Utes went first in the NBA (Andrew Bogut) and NFL (Alex Smith) drafts back in 2005. Are the 49ers and Bucks happy with their decisions?

Interesting Fact #2: I realize that the Simpsons have faded when it comes to animated TV shows. As far as I can tell Family Guy and South Park have left it in their dust. Long gone are the days when the Simpsons were must see TV for me every week and some of my friends were not allowed to watch it. As a side note I can't imagine how the people who were offended by, "Eat my shorts man" are dealing with the South Park era. Yet I digress. Even though it's odd to reference the Simpsons in back-to-back previews, I want to point out that the Australian episode was easily in the top 5 all time. For what it's worth the Prohibition/Beer Baron episode is #1. It's not close. And yes I feel good about taking the high road and not talking about a certain Paul Hogan movie for my obligatory pop culture reference.

Recommended Reading:
Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel is an interesting read, whether you agree with it or not. Meanwhile, On the Beach is a classic, albeit a depressing one.

World Rank (Courtesy of FIBA): 9

Qualified: Oceanian Champion

Dream Match Up in Beijing: China

Dream Match Up That Did Not Qualify:
New Zealand or UK

Recent News: The Australians are known as the Boomers and have quite a streak going in terms of qualifying for the Olympics. 

Catch player profiles after the jump.

Australian Roster - These previews continue to evolve, sometimes in painful ways. Hence it took my third preview before I thought, "Maybe I should include the players' positions." So there you go. Meanwhile, it's important to note that the Aussies have a lot of young guys that spent time together at the Australian Institute of Sport and could help them someday get over what will most likely be a disappointing 2008 Olympics

David Andersen - Forward/Center:
A former teammate of Marko Jaric and Manu Ginobili in Italy, Andersen recently entered his prime and is well regarded as a big man in the Euroleague. At this point he's moved on to Russia. It's important to note that throughout his time in Italy and the Oceania Championships (2005, 2007) Andersen has also done plenty of winning. Still there is only one star on this team.

Chris Anstey - Center: Throughout the research for these previews I've noticed that website rarely want to say anything bad about a player. In Anstey's case he receives a good deal of positive buzz for his time in the NBA. To be fair his numbers were nothing to be ashamed of in limited time. On top of that Anstey played well in Russia and Spain for stretches as well. Still he was traded with some cash for Kelvin "The Ultimate Project" Cato. Let's just not pretend that he took the NBA by storm.

David Barlow - Guard/Forward:
He spent a few years in the States playing for Metropolitan State College in Denver. Outside of that Barlow spent the bulk of his basketball career in the homeland. Turns out this profile is a goldmine. Barlow tore his ACL in each knee (separate incidents), holds a few shooting records in Australia's National Basketball League (NBL), played in the 2006 FIBA World Championship, is superstitious, appreciates Jay-Z, and is not afraid of bland answers to questions.

Andrew Bogut - Center: Unlike the majority of the players on this list Bogut is a household name. He's a talented big man that passes well, recently got a new deal,  and flirts with the double-double. Realistically a NBA team can't feel good about him being the franchise player. I like Bogut, you like Bogut, but he definitely has a ceiling. Ironically Michael Redd is not that guy either. Still I admire Bogut. He had the guts to say this, rolled with the negative feedback, and, as Chris Kaman recently learned, will probably enjoy more camaraderie in the international game than he did stateside:

Andrew Bogut High Fiving Himself (via ProtestTh3Hero)

C.J. Bruton - Guard: He was born in Kansas, lost his NCAA eligibility playing pro in Australia, attended Indian Hills Community College, was drafted by the Grizzlies,  traded to the TrailBlazers, and went on to an illustrious career as a point guard down under. Though his height may have hurt his cause at times Bruton is an emotional guy that played in the '04 Olympics.

Joe Ingles - Guard: Ingles attracted the attention of NBA scouts with his athleticism, basketball IQ, fundamentals, and outside shooting (solid to international range). At the same time he is small, frame wise, for the NBA and even at 6-8 will be a wing throughout his career. It will be interesting to see if he's worth the late 1st/early 2nd round pick that he has been projected as. He is very much a work in progress and is a name to keep in mind for the future.

Patrick Mills - Guard: He had a solid, under the radar freshman season for St. Mary's College in California and made some noise debuting with the Boomers at such a young age, which was notable for both his play and indigenous background. DraftExpress raves about his shooting touch, scoring ability, and comfort running the point. Though not particularly large or overly athletic Mills has an excellent wingspan and is known for his toughness. Much like Ingles he could have a bright future but has a lot of development ahead of him.

Brad Newley - Guard: In 2007 the Houston Rockets took a flier on Newley late in the second round. Though he's known as an excellent scorer and slasher in the NBL it will be nice to see him play against some stronger competition in Beijing. He's a part of this clip, which has the dual purpose of showing Newley's athleticism and simultaneously reminding everyone that the NBL may be a scoring league, but it is not an elite league.

Matthew Nielsen - Forward: He has played professionally for 12 seasons and chose to blog about the most recent one, which took place in the Euroleague. In addition Nielsen was on the '04 squad in Athens and has been involved with the Boomers in some capacity since 1998. With Andersen, Anstey, and Bogut he is part of the deepest front line in Australian history.

Shawn Redhage - Forward: He was born in Nebraska, was the Nebraska Player of the Year in 1999, attended Arizona State where Eddie House nicknamed him Charlie Hustle, caught on playing basketball in Australia, and eventually became a naturalized citizen down under. Almost every one of his profiles mentioned his 3.61 GPA and 76 blocks (9th in school history) at ASU. Still it's been hard to get a read on his actual game.

Glen Saville - Guard/Forward: At 32 Saville is another one of the Olympic veterans on the roster and also someone with a great deal of professional experience. Though he has toured with the Boomers Saville has never played professionally outside of Australia. Back home his strength, quickness, and size lead to a lot of different defensive assignments. Australia will need that versatility in Beijing.

Mark Worthington - Forward: He also attended Metropolitan State College (Denver) before kicking off a professional career and later a Men's National Team career back home in Australia. This Australian forum makes him out to be a cheap shot artist and also shows that it is not just American comments sections that degenerate quickly at times. Although to be fair Worthington was eventually cited for throwing an elbow. And interestingly enough the recipient of that elbow is current Boomers teammate Redhage.

Final Thoughts: During the USA/Lithuania friendly Fran Fraschilla talked about the cyclical nature of national teams. For example Spain is just entering a strong era, while Lithuania and Argentina are on the downside of one. It will be interesting to see exactly where the Australians are. They finished 4th in Seoul, Barcelona, and Atlanta but fell to 9th in Athens. Still the players and Australian national team legend Andrew Gaze believe a medal is possible. I don't see it. The fact that the bulk of the roster plays professionally in Australia appears to be a bad omen. Incidentally it is also bad for getting info on their playing styles, as NBL teams does not provide the same analysis as many European squads. So maybe I'm severely underestimating them. Furthermore, there is a lot of young talent on the Boomers and they could be laying the foundation for a strong era of Australian ball.