Gen Y’s Baby Boomers Flourish
Every sporting fan is always on the look out for the next big thing that could come along and act as the shining light that puts their program back on the map. Australia may have found a couple coming through juniors, but none with more upside than that of up-and-coming star in the 6’5″, 185lbs guard Dante Exum; son of former UNC Championship player and NBL superstar Cecil Exum. The 17 year old, who was the youngest ever Australian to get an invite to the Boomers squad at only 15, most recently put his skills on display for the Australia in the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championships. Held earlier this year, the Australians were runners up to a loaded USA squad that included ESPNs 2013 #2 Overall College Ranked Player Jabari Parker, who has already received offers from Duke, BYU, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford.
Throughout the tournament, Exum blitzed his teammates in scoring, finishing with an average of 17.3PPG, 7.5PPG more than the next best Mirko Djeric (9.8PPG). Not only were his PPG statistics impressive, but he also finished second in assists (2.5APG) behind Djeric with 5.6APG and third in rebounds (4.1RPG) behind Nicholas Duncan (9RPG) and Ben Simmons (5.4RPG). These numbers weren’t only impressive within the team however, but his 17.3PPG ranked fourth throughout the entire tournament behind only Argentinian Gabriel Deck (21.5PPG), Croatian Mario Hezonja (20.8PPG) and Korean Hoon Heo (17.7PPG). Out of these four players, Exum also holds the second highest 2P% with 55.6%.
Out of the entire 131 players in the tournament, Exum also ranked 21st for APG (and only 40th in TOPG), 40th in SPG and 43rd in RPG (11th for Guards). The only statistic that he did struggle in was his percent shooting from beyond the arc as well as at the line (17.1% and 66.7% respectively). From beyond the arc, Exum hit only six of thirty-five attempts; for a shooting guard this is no where near good enough. For the tournament, he ranked 50th. From the line, another area that someone who attacks the basket as hard as Exum does should improve on, he ranked 10th. If anything is to be taken out of these numbers, it’s that his teammates trust him and look for him as much as they can. On the flip-side, if Exum has the ball, you’ll know he’s going to do something special with it.
Another exciting factor about Exums game is his consistency. In the eight games of the tournament, minus the French matchup where he only played four minutes and failed to register a point, Exum never scored less than 10 points and only once registered less than two assists. Even in the showtime games against the States, Exum proved to be one of the more capable players on the court averaging 19PTS and 2AST in the two match-ups. No player for either team averaged greater PPG statistics from the two match-ups. No nerves on the big stage for this young fellow.
At this years Adidas Nations, the leading global grassroots basketball program featuring the worlds Top 18-and-under players from six regions of the world, Exum averaged 15.3PPG/3.6APG/1.3SPG. All the while shooting 54.1FG%. One of the leading scorers in the competition and the leading scorer for the Australian team, Exum backed up his form and consolidated his title as Australians premier junior scorer.
Being eligible for College in 2014, Exum has already expressed interest from multiple schools. Boise State, Georgetown, Indiana, LSU, SMU, Tulsa and Vanderbilt have all reportedly offered the young gun a scholarship; keeping the Aussie’s options wide open.
Another one of those U17’s players that is sure to make an impact on a bigger level in the next couple of years is Mirko Djeric who is currently on the roster for Serbian superclub KK Partizan in the Serbian League, Adriatic League and the Euroleague. Although he hasn’t been getting game time at the club which possesses one of the most impressive resumes in European basketball, his time will come as his body and his game matures. He has shown, through the U17s competition especially, that he’s capable of putting up big numbers.
Taking away the match-up against France where, like Exum, he played limited minutes, Djeric averaged an amazing 6.4APG and, although not a prolific scorer, made 20+ points in two separate contests (22 and 21 against Egypt and Croatia respectively). Throughout the entire tournament, he ranked 2nd in APG (with an Assists-Turnover Ratio of 2.25), 31st in PPG (9.8) and 13th in 3P% (37.5%) making him a much more lethal threat from beyond the arc than anyone else in the Australian team. His pass-first mentality makes him the perfect back-court partner to Exum and with the duo no doubt set to play much basketball together in the near future, their understanding of each others game will only get better. In the Adidas Nations tournament that Exum dominated earlier this year, Djeric also flourished; with 7.3PPG and 3.1APG. Not quite Exum’s numbers but still very solid numbers.
From back court to front court stars now and another son of a former NBL star Bejamin Simmons; son of Dave. 6’8″ Benjamin, the youngest player in the U17 team, has been on the radar of many scouts for almost as long as Exum and, although he doesn’t have the same numbers to highlight his impact within the team, his worth is no doubt recognised by his teammates and coach.
Keeping in mind the fact that like Exum and Djeric before him, Simmons played very limited minutes against France, his 9.0PPG ranked 36th in the tournament, which included 26 points vs CZE, equal highest by any Australian with Exum. Although struggling against the bigger bodies from the United States, Simmons scored double figures on four occasions.
He also scored double figure rebounds on two occasions, giving him a tournament average of 5.4RPG (6.1RPG if not counting vsFrance), and the 20th ranking. He also averaged 1.0BPG giving him the 10th ranking. Rounding out his impressive numbers are his 51.9FG% and his 57.4 2P%. His 12.0PPG (53.3FG%), 1.3BPG and team-high’s 5.5RPG and 1.5SPG in the Adidas Nations tournament topped off a brilliant year for the sixteen-year-old.
Nick Duncan is another underage player that could find time in the “Seniors” at some point after his 7.1PPG/8.0RPG showing at the championship, scoring double-digit rebounds on four accessions. As a definitive defensive presence (his 8.0RPG ranked him 8th for RBS and his 0.8BPG ranked him 17th for BPG), Duncan acted as a solid front court partner for Simmons. He may not have the reputation, but the numbers aren’t too far behind. In the Adidas Nations tournament, although only starting two of the six games, averaged 7.3PPG including 429FG% and 333 3P%.
That’s a decent crop of young kids; with two a very good chance of at least having a very illustrious college career. The next couple of years will see where they’re really at and if they can handle the pressure of even bigger time basketball. It will also expose if they’ve peaked too early or not and if they’re really as mature as they seem. It’s an exciting time for Australian basketball; perhaps the most exciting time for many, many years.