Aussies Boom In Europe
Australia has over 180 players playing overseas in over 24 countries in over 31 leagues. Of these 180 players, more than 140 play in the United States of America including 2 in the NBA, with the possibility for more once the college season is up. This may not be that much of a surprise to you, but what if we break down where this years Boomers play their club ball.
From our twelve man squad, twelve clubs within eight different countries & leagues – including Australia – are being represented. The only players playing together in the same league are David Barlow, Joe Ingles and Brad Newley who all play in the Spanish league, and Matt Nielson and Aleks Maric who both play in the Russian league.
That’s a lot of eyes that we should be casting on a lot of places. But as we all know, for the forty players playing outside of the United States, as well as many of those playing for the smaller colleges within the United States, it can be very difficult to keep track of even our best and up-and-coming players. So let’s try to make it all a little bit easier and pin-point the premier leagues we should be focusing at least some of our attention as Australians towards.
1. Spanish League (Liga ACB)
In the Spanish League, we have four players – three current Boomers and one ex-NBA player – representing two divisions and three clubs including FCB Regal (Joe Ingles, Nathan Jawai), UCAM Murcia (David Barlow) and G.Canaria (Brad Newley). Along with these four players, we also have a fifth; Josh Duinker, playing for Caceres in LEB Gold; one of the reserve divisions.
From ten games so far this season, Newley has played a team high 30.1MPG. He’s averaging an impressive 12.1PPG from 56.5FG% and 4.2RPG; some of his best numbers in club play to date. No doubt one of the leader’s of the 5th placed, 7-3 club, Newley will continue this form throughout the entire season.
Having also played all ten games, David Barlow averages only 7.2PPG and 4.5RBS in 23.6MPG for a 13th placed 4-6 team, his numbers a fraction down on last season’s 8.1PPG and 24.9MPG. Both himself and fellow Forward, the Frenchman Kim Tillie provide a capable front court without seeming too dangerous. If they can both up their form as the season progresses, look for UCAM Murcia to climb their way up the table.
For FCB Regal, who sit a spot below Newley’s G.Canaria at sixth on 6-4, the two Australians are playing regular hoops without causing too much damage. Nathan Jawai and Joe Ingles have 6.6PPG and 6.5PPG from 14.0MPG and 19.7MPG respectively, with the former shooting at an impressive 70FG%. Jawai has been hovering around the just par-ten range for PPG; the last time cracking it being the 2010-11 season playing for Partizan. For Ingles, he’s struggled to find the form that saw him so successful at Granada where he averaged 11.0PPG and 13.3PPG in two seasons. One of the biggest factors letting him down this season is his shooting, where he’s only 10-26 from beyond the arc; an average of only 33.3 3P%.
2. Russian League (VTB United League)
The Russian League is not regarded as highly as the Spanish League (more on this later), and historically, Australians haven’t travelled to Russia as much as they have to South-West Europe, yet this year has seen two Australians, and Boomers, represent two clubs in Lokomotiv (Aleks Maric) and Khimky (Matt Nielson) .
The 6’11” Sydneysider Maric has already proven his worth in the Russian League, averaging a team high 11.8PPG and a league high 10.1RPG for the first seven games of the season. He’s also shooting over 50% from the field for the 4th placed 5-2 team. Maric hasn’t seen these type of numbers in league games since the 2009-10 season while playing for Partizan.
Matt Neilson however, and his top-placed 6-1 Khimky, has not been getting the same amount of opportunities as his Boomer counterpart. Playing in only three of the seven games so far, Nielson is only averaging 2.7PPG. As the season progresses however, Nielson will no doubt make a big push to become a regular starter.
3. Serbian League (Adriatic League)
Four Australians, including Boomer Mark Worthington, have made their way to three clubs in the Adriatic League including Radnicki KG (Mark Worthington, Steven Markovic), Partizan (Mirko Djeric) and Smederevo (Marko Nikolic).
One of the most consistently top performers in any league from the Boomers squad is Mark Worthington. In eleven games for the 7th placed 5-6 Radnicki this season, Worthington averages 12.0PPG and 3.7RBG. He’s also shooting at a second team high 63.8% from the field. His teammate, Steven Markovic is also impressing with his 10.6PPG from ten games including 50% from the field.
Of the other two Australians playing in this league, neither of them have really made much of an impact at all, with neither having played a game so far. For Mirko Djeric, this may not be such a surprise giving that the point guard is only seventeen.
4. Turkish League (TBL)
Only one Australian is playing in Turkey this season but he’s one of the best. Boomer and former NBA Forward David Andersen has made the trek from Italy to play for Fenerbahce Ulker in the TBL.
One of our more experienced campaigners, Andersen is averaging 7.4PPG and a team high 4.4RPG for the 3rd placed 7-1 Fenerbahce Ulker. Playing alongside Bojan Bodganovic who was drafted in the 2011 NBA Draft, Andersen is playing with some esteemed players but he’ll still no doubt get his fair share of the minutes and points.
5. Slovenian League (A SKL)
Again, only one Australian and Boomer is playing in Slovenia this season; Aron Baynes. He’s a newer name compared to some of the others in the Boomer squad but it will only take a couple of years before he’s a household name.
As one of the up and comers within the Boomers squad, a lot is expected of Baynes, and he is yet to disappoint in Slovenia. Averaging a team high 5.8RPG as well as 12.0PPG from the first 11 games, Baynes has proven himself to be a vital cog in Union Olimpija’s chain. His previous seasons numbers of 13.6PPG and 8.7RPG prove that Baynes may still have more in reserve.
140 Australians call the US of A home for their playing career but only two in the NBA. Patty Mills and Andrew Bogut have found their ways to San Antonio and Golden State after getting traded from Portland and Milwaukee respectively.
While Bogut, who hasn’t had much game time this season due to a troubling ankle injury, remains the shining light of all the Australians currently playing throughout the world. In his last fit season in 2010-11, Bogut averaged 12.8PPG and 11.1RPG, the third time in his 7 year career that he’s averaged a double-double). If he can find that same fitness again, there’s no doubt those numbers will come back.
For the new Spur Mills however, times have been a little more tough. In his three years previous to this, Patty Mills has only played a total of 105 games, starting only five and averaging over 10PPG once (10.3PPG in 2011-12). If he can step his game up another gear and take his chances, along with a bit of luck, Mills may see his current seasons numbers of 4.9PPG from 15 games and 2 starts, improve.
The United States is also home to the next crop of potential stars; such as Brock Motum and Matthew Dellavedova in the NCAA. Historically, many Australians have made the trek to College basketball, but not many of them have had the success or potential that Motum and Dellavedova currently have.
With a chance for both players to get drafted next season, their careers are essentially on the line; so playing their best basketball is a necessity. And neither player has failed to disappoint.
In his fourth and final year for the St. Marys Gaels, a school with an historically successful connection to Australia, Matthew Dellavedova is averaging a career best 16.6PPG and 6.4APG. A clever point guard who knows how to use the ball, Dellavedova has become the programs definitive leader. Having played with the Boomers in this years Olympics certainly hasn’t hurt his case either.
Playing just north of Dellavedova in Washington (Dellavedova plays in Moraga, California) is the other Aussie with high hopes, the 6’10” Forward Brock Motum. With career high’s around the board – 18.9PPG, 7.0RPG and 1.1BPG – this years Motum, who got dubbed co-captain of the team by Coach Ken Bone and teammates at the beginning of the season, is set to make his mark on the American basketball landscape very soon.
Of the other Australians worth keeping an eye out for in the NCAA is Hugh Greenwood (New Mexico), Ryan Broekhoff (Valparaiso), Mitchell Young (St Mary’s), Jorden Page (St. Mary’s), Jeromie Hill (UTSA), Jackson Aldridge (Butler), Igor Hadziomerovic (Boise State), Anthony Drmic (Boise State) and a plethora more.
Now if we were to break down the quality of each of the previously mentioned leagues; taking away the NBA which is a clear first and the NCAA which is not a professional league, the next best looks something like this (according to the 2009-12 ULEB National Domestic League Rankings):
1. Spainish ACB; where we have four Australians playing.
2. Russian PBL; where we have two Australians playing.
3. Greek GBL; no Australians playing there this year.
4. Italian Lega A; where we have one Australian playing.
5. Turkish TBL; where we have one Australian playing.
We also have a number of players representing clubs from leagues further down the list:
7. German BBL; where we have one Australian playing.
11. Ukrainian SuperLeague; where we have one Australian playing.
15. Dutch DBL; where we have one Australian playing.
It’s also important to note that from the previous set of rankings taken between 2007-2009, both the Serbian KLS and Slovenian SKL have dropped from 8th and 10th respectively to outside of the Top 16 (where the rankings stop).
It’s obvious to see that it’s all quite a task keeping track of all the Australian players; and it will forever continue to be like that. One of the biggest reasons for this is that they move around so often; most commonly due to new opportunities and money. Just have a look at how much Australians playing in International basketball leagues resembles musical chairs:
Nathan Jawai, of course, made his way to Spain after failing in a short stint in the NBA for the Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves. For Joe Ingles, this is his second Spanish club but only his first Liga ACB club (he transferred from CB Granada; a club in the lower league “Liga Espanola de Baloncesto”.)
For Brad Newley however, his career has taken a lot longer and travelled a lot more miles to get to G.Canaria. His introduction to International basketball, after getting drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2007 to no avail (or contract), was in Greece playing for Panionios B.C., before having short stints for Panellinios B.C., Besiktas JK Istanbul in the Turkish League, BC Lietuvs Rytas in Lithuania and Valencia BC in Spain.
The Former University of Nebraska Centre Aleks Maric, once having graduated from college, made his way to Spain for a stint in the “Liga Espanola de Baloncesto” for CB Granada; a year prior to Ingles’ arrival. He then went on to play for Partizan Belgrade in Serbia and Panathinaikos in Greece before eventually settling down at Lokomotiv Kuban.
Matt Nielson started his International career playing for P.A.O.K. B.C. in Greece before moving to BC Lietuvos Rytas in the Lithuanian Basketball League, Valencia in Liga ACB, Olympiacos B.C. in the Greek Basketball League and his current home of Khimky.
Mark Worthington had made his way to two separate clubs in Puerto Rico’s “Baloncesto Superior Nacional (BSN)” before finally heading to Serbia.
Former four-year Washington State Centre now Boomer Aron Baynes played for Lietuvos Rytas in Lithuania, a very highly regarded league in the International circuit, as well as Ikaros Kallitheas B.C. in Greece before making his way to Slovenian club Union Olimpija.
It’s a lot to take in. What this does mean however, is that we have many Australians making a name for themselves, as well as a name for Australian basketball as a whole, in various different leagues and countries. The longer this continues, the better Australian basketball will become. More experience means more exposure, means a greater brand of Australian basketball. And right now that’s about all we can ask for.