Final Score: Boomers win 96-57.

Prior to the game the Basketball Australia media manager told me that after a couple of weeks of training the boys were chompin’ at the bit for this one, and it showed. It was men among boys – the Boomers were too sharp, too experienced and too big for the Butler Bulldogs. The standouts were Patty Mills and Joe Ingles (he really looks good) with 17 points apiece, but overall it was a team effort, especially on the defensive end where they were unrelenting in their pressure.

It was great to see the young guns, Dante Exum and Ben Simmons get some burn (each played about a quarter and a half) and they confirmed the hype with their impressive play. Ben Simmons in particular, I can’t say enough about this guy. Despite still being in high school he looks like he belongs on this level, now. What’s most impressive about Ben is that his game doesn’t appear to have any major holes, which is rare for a 17 year old. His athleticism is off the charts (he threw down a big dunk in the fourth), he’s highly skilled, and here’s the big one – he shows a willingness and ability to be a good defender. He’s a rare breed, and the mere fact I am almost ignoring Dante Exum in this discussion – a sure-fire top ten pick in the loaded 2014 NBA draft – I think tells the story about how much potential this guy has. The interview below captures this perfectly.

After the game we (Benyam Kidane from #believethehype and myself – the only media in attendance) had the absolute privilege of talking to Boomer assistant coach and Aussie legend, Luc Longley. The big fella was a bit crook and pretty hoarse which made transcribing the interview a challenging task, but here it is in full:

Were you happy with the overall performance tonight?
The second quarter was pretty poor, but I liked the way the guys competed for most of the game considering we put most our stuff in over the last 2-3 days. I am really happy with the way that went on the court considering they learnt most of it in the last 48 hours.

What positives do you take out of the game today?
I think the guys found ways to find good shots out of the offense; you know, our offense isn’t really prescriptive. If they wanted to get someone a look they were able to find that look. They shot the ball well, everything except in the second quarter. Yeah, I think that’s probably the best thing, I think offensively they figured out a little bit how (inaudible). It’s a difficult situation because we’re all practicing the same offense so the defense is loaded, so against a defense that doesn’t know what’s coming the offense looked good. 96 points is good for us.

Are you concerned with anything in particular going into the NZ series?
Very concerned with our rebounding. We know that NZ will be up the court pressing us and we’ll be concerned with that. Yeah, probably full court pressure and rebounding is the thing we will be most addressing.

On the defensive end of the court today there was a lot of talking, a lot of movement and a lot of active hands, what did you take away from the defensive side of the game today?
Our guys have really embraced what we’re doing, and we’re changing our full court look and half court look continuously and they are able to do that, and the guys are doing that on their own initiative and that shows a lot of maturity. We’ve got a lot of young guys on our team, some mature guys but a lot of young guys, I am sure we’ll get to that at the end of the interview, but they were able to manage it. I mean they broke down in the second quarter but they were able to rebuild it and they were able to manage all of their different looks. I mean, 57 points, you know, that’s a fair effort.

Can you talk a bit about the performance of the young guys; they looked pretty comfortable out there tonight?
Yeah, they’re both (Ben Simmons and Dante Exum) remarkably poised young men. They’re both quiet. Admittedly they’re in a group of men but they’re both very quiet guys, but when they come out on the court they both read the game very well, they’re both very patient.

I thought Ben Simmons looked like a man out there today. No one had any answers for him when he went at the rim. And Dante is amazing for his ability to manage men as well, I mean they’re 17/18 year old kids and he’s out there and running the show and telling guys he grew up watching where to go and how to do it. Having that kind of young athletic talent coming into the program with that level of poise and basketball savvy is pretty exciting for us.

Do you think we’ll see them in the NZ series?
Yes, if I’ve got anything to do with it you will, if Andrej [Lemanis] listens to me you will. I mean, they’re undeniable, those two kids that’s why they’re here. Some people may think they’re a bit young but we just think they’re both special and you saw flashes of that tonight I think.

The coaching gig, are you enjoying that?
I am, yes. It’s a bit hard when you’re crook, you can’t do much yelling. I am enjoying being back around the game, it has been a while but I find the players are hard workers, receptive, professional, for the most part they’ve been really easy. So I’ve enjoyed it but I’ll enjoy it more once we get to the real dinkum games where we’re playing for keeps, the worlds and that sort of thing. I grew up here playing at the institute so it’s nice to be around this facility as well.

How have you found working with the big guys like Aron Baynes and Neville and teaching them a few things?
Yeah look, I’ve loved it and they’ve taught me a few things. It’s more of a partnership than anything. These guys are already professionals so they know what’s going on, so between us we’ve got to figure out ways to get better and they’re both really good at that; they’re both great listeners and they both have their own ideas on the game. I am looking forward to getting my hands on a few of the other ones – Jawai and Bogut and those guys, as we get further down the line and Maric. But it’s nice to have the horses to work with.

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