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Delly, Thon to make a difference

THE excitement is building for Australia’s Boomers on the eve of the final FIBA World Cup qualifying window of Phase One, on the road to Japan and the Philippines next week.

Gathering today in Melbourne for a preparatory camp before departing for Japan on Monday, coach Andrej Lemanis said whenever members of the Boomers squad assembled, there was excitement in the air.

Of course this time, Milwaukee Bucks NBA pair Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker are part of the Australian equation.

An NBA championship winner with Cleveland Cavaliers and a dual-Olympian, Dellavedova dons the green ’n’ gold again, thrilled to represent the Boomers and play at the international level after an injury-disrupted season.

But this selection is a “first” for the versatile 216cm Maker, an athletic 21-year-old South Sudanese-born big-man who has been busy establishing his elite-level cred ahead of putting up his hand to represent Australia.

“It’s always exciting to have the guys in together,” Lemanis said tonight.

“There’s a refreshing, nice feeling in the stomach whenever we get together again.

“But you talk to Thon and you see the  genuine joy and excitement in his face to be representing Australia and honestly, that’s one of the cool experiences of the job.”

DIFFERENCE MAKER: Bucks star Thon Maker finally gets to wear the green 'n' gold of Australia.

Today involved meetings and weights, with on-court starting tomorrow.

The team will have three sessions before leaving Monday, then three more in Japan before playing the hosts tomorrow-week.

Without hitting the floor yet, Lemanis said it was an unknown at this point who would start or how his rotations might be affected.

“We have six practices to sort it all out,” he said.

Dellavedova’s return and Maker’s arrival does alter the dynamic somewhat, with the team also comprising Angus Brandt (Perth Wildcats), Jason Cadee (Brisbane Bullets), Cameron Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets), Chris Goulding (Melbourne United), Nick Kay (Perth Wildcats), Daniel Kickert (Sydney Kings), Kevin Lisch (Sydney Kings), Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United), Nathan Sobey (Adelaide 36ers) and Jesse Wagstaff (Perth Wildcats).

Commonwealth Games Gold Medallists Damian Martin, Brad Newley, Mitch Norton and Lucas Walker make way for the Bucks’ duo, plus Rio Olympian Kevin Lisch and FIBA Asia Cup champion Mitch McCarron.

I GO TO RIO: Kevin Lisch in the Bronze Medal game in Rio, 2016. He's back.

Also notably absent, but in this case unavailable due to NBA Summer League and camp commitments, is Mitch Creek, who starred in the Asia Cup Gold success and in the early World Cup qualifiers.

“The feeling within the group is always good,” Lemanis said.  “It felt the same today, with everyone happy to be back.”

After playing in Japan, it is on to Philippines where 50,000 basketball fanatics are expected to create a hostile environment for the Boomers on July 2.

“I believe it’s the biggest (indoor) basketball stadium in Asia,” Lemanis said.

“It will be a wonderful experience and I’m sure everyone is genuinely looking forward to it.

“I’m sure it will be loud but as the away team, you can feed on that energy as much as the home team.

“You can feed on the buzz and the electricity in the air.”

Australia beat Japan 82-58 in Adelaide in November and knocked over the Philippines 84-68 in Melbourne in February. Even that was in front of a surprisingly pro-Philippines crowd.

Coupled with twin wins away and at home over Chinese Taipei, the Aussies already are through to the next round of qualification but advancing with an unblemished 6-0 record would be a big plus for the Asia Cup champions.

The Japan Basketball Association reports 5,500 seats have been sold at the Chiba Port Arena, making it a sell-out for the return of Japan's 202cm NCAA rising star Rui Hachimura, who has been missing from its preceding qualifying games.

Jun 21

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