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Young Aussie Basketball Guns Shoot Their Way Into the NBA All Stars

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When the NBL launched the ‘Next Stars’ initiative ahead of the 2018-19 season, the goal was to develop a ‘program to fast-track future stars of the NBA.’ The NBL would ‘contract overseas players and develop them in Australia to give them the best chance of being drafted into the NBA.’

With the recent success of ‘Next Stars’ graduates LaMelo Ball and 19-year-old Aussie Josh Giddey, the program can be deemed a triumph for the NBL.

The Charlotte Hornets selected Ball with the third overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and following an outstanding season, Ball was named the 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year.

The current NBA season has also been successful for Ball after he was selected in the NBA All-Star Game. At 20 years of age and 182 days, Ball will be the fourth-youngest player in NBA history to participate in an All-Star Game.

Former Adelaide 36ers player Josh Giddey is the new star of Australian basketball and has won three straight Rookie of the Month awards. Giddey was selected with the number six overall pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Giddey is amongst the favourites for this season’s NBA Rookie of the Year award and will also be involved in the All-Star Weekend after he was selected in the Rising Stars Game.

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The success of Ball and Giddey comes on the back of a stronger NBL competition than in previous years with Giddey declaring “Australia is a physical league. That’s one of the reasons I chose the NBL over college, to play against grown men, which for me was better than playing against other kids in college. It’s one of the best leagues in the world.”

After returning to the NBL last season, legendary coach and current Australian Boomers coach Brian Goorjian said the improved quality of the NBL played a key role in his decision to return to Australia after 11 years coaching in China.

“The last 11 years I have been coaching in China but of course I have been following the developments in the NBL. I now feel very confident in its future looking at the direction that (NBL owner) Larry Kestelman has taken the league both on and off the court,” Goorjian said.
 
“The NBL has now once again become a respected competition around the world and what Larry has achieved in a relatively short period is nothing short of amazing.”

Not only is the NBL going through a successful period, but the Australian Boomers men’s basketball team is flourishing after picking up a bronze medal at the recent Tokyo Olympics in what was the team’s first Olympic medal of any colour.

The Boomers were led by Australian basketball legend and captain Patty Mills who had 42 points while it was a fitting reward for the golden generation of Mills, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum and Matthew Dellavedova after many years of blood, sweat and tears. 

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“It’s our culture at the end of the day, the Australian culture, our Aussie spirit, the boys being able to hang together and realise what it means to be able to represent your country, for it to come pouring out in moments like this,” Mills said.

“Now that we’ve made it over the hill, this is the standard now of Australian men’s basketball and we take nothing less. We say ‘gold vibes only’ is the standard and we won’t accept anything less on the court or off the court.”

Mills joined the Brooklyn Nets this season and is enjoying a career-best season while averaging 13.8 points per game and 3.3 from three-point territory. His strong form has seen him selected in the 3-Point Contest at the upcoming All-Star Weekend.

With the NBL surging towards the upcoming finals campaign and the Boomers pushing ahead strongly to the FIBA Basketball World Cup and the Paris Olympics, the future looks bright for Australian men’s basketball with a mixture of veterans and young talent leading the way. 

Joel Martelli
Joel Martelli
The only thing that Joel Martelli loves more than football (seriously, we wouldn't be surprised if he has a Wollongong Wolves tattoo) is writing about all things sports. With a Bachelor of Communications and Media Studies Degree specialising in Journalism, he spends his days uncovering breaking athlete news stories and diving deep into play-by-play strategies. We're glad that he's put his passion to the pages of Only Sports as one of our dedicated sports writers.

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